Guerres culturelles: La ‘wokeité’ serait-elle le christianisme des imbéciles ? (Purer-than-thou: Behind the fourth Great Awakening we now see taking to our streets once again is nothing but the Girardian escalation of mimetic rivalry, former Weekly Standard literary editor Joseph Bottum says)

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Woke | Know Your MemeDictionary.com Adds Words: 'Woke,' 'Butthurt' and 'Pokemon' | Time
PNG - 393.4 koL’antisémitisme est le socialisme des imbéciles. Ferdinand Kronawetter ? (attribué à August Bebel)
Je les ai foulés dans ma colère, Je les ai écrasés dans ma fureur; Leur sang a jailli sur mes vêtements, Et j’ai souillé tous mes habits. Car un jour de vengeance était dans mon coeur (…) J’ai foulé des peuples dans ma colère, Je les ai rendus ivres dans ma fureur, Et j’ai répandu leur sang sur la terre. Esaïe 63: 3-6
Et l’ange jeta sa faucille sur la terre. Et il vendangea la vigne de la terre, et jeta la vendange dans la grande cuve de la colère de Dieu. Et la cuve fut foulée hors de la ville; et du sang sortit de la cuve, jusqu’aux mors des chevaux, sur une étendue de mille six cents stades. Apocalypse 14: 19-20
Mes yeux ont vu la gloire de la venue du Seigneur; Il piétine le vignoble où sont gardés les raisins de la colère; Il a libéré la foudre fatidique de sa terrible et rapide épée; Sa vérité est en marche. (…) Dans la beauté des lys Christ est né de l’autre côté de l’océan, Avec dans sa poitrine la gloire qui nous transfigure vous et moi; Comme il est mort pour rendre les hommes saints, mourons pour rendre les hommes libres; Tandis que Dieu est en marche. Julia Ward Howe (1861)
La colère commence à luire dans les yeux de ceux qui ont faim. Dans l’âme des gens, les raisins de la colère se gonflent et mûrissent, annonçant les vendanges prochaines. John Steinbeck (1939)
La civilisation atteindra la perfection le jour où la dernière pierre de la dernière église aura assommé le dernier prêtre. Attribué à Zola
Le monde moderne n’est pas mauvais : à certains égards, il est bien trop bon. Il est rempli de vertus féroces et gâchées. Lorsqu’un dispositif religieux est brisé (comme le fut le christianisme pendant la Réforme), ce ne sont pas seulement les vices qui sont libérés. Les vices sont en effet libérés, et ils errent de par le monde en faisant des ravages ; mais les vertus le sont aussi, et elles errent plus férocement encore en faisant des ravages plus terribles. Le monde moderne est saturé des vieilles vertus chrétiennes virant à la folie. Elles ont viré à la folie parce qu’on les a isolées les unes des autres et qu’elles errent indépendamment dans la solitude. Ainsi des scientifiques se passionnent-ils pour la vérité, et leur vérité est impitoyable. Ainsi des « humanitaires » ne se soucient-ils que de la pitié, mais leur pitié (je regrette de le dire) est souvent mensongère. G.K. Chesterton
La nature d’une civilisation, c’est ce qui s’agrège autour d’une religion. Notre civilisation est incapable de construire un temple ou un tombeau. Elle sera contrainte de trouver sa valeur fondamentale, ou elle se décomposera. C’est le grand phénomène de notre époque que la violence de la poussée islamique. Sous-estimée par la plupart de nos contemporains, cette montée de l’islam est analogiquement comparable aux débuts du communisme du temps de Lénine. Les conséquences de ce phénomène sont encore imprévisibles. A l’origine de la révolution marxiste, on croyait pouvoir endiguer le courant par des solutions partielles. Ni le christianisme, ni les organisations patronales ou ouvrières n’ont trouvé la réponse. De même aujourd’hui, le monde occidental ne semble guère préparé à affronter le problème de l’islam. En théorie, la solution paraît d’ailleurs extrêmement difficile. Peut-être serait-elle possible en pratique si, pour nous borner à l’aspect français de la question, celle-ci était pensée et appliquée par un véritable homme d’Etat. Les données actuelles du problème portent à croire que des formes variées de dictature musulmane vont s’établir successivement à travers le monde arabe. Quand je dis «musulmane» je pense moins aux structures religieuses qu’aux structures temporelles découlant de la doctrine de Mahomet. Dès maintenant, le sultan du Maroc est dépassé et Bourguiba ne conservera le pouvoir qu’en devenant une sorte de dictateur. Peut-être des solutions partielles auraient-elles suffi à endiguer le courant de l’islam, si elles avaient été appliquées à temps. Actuellement, il est trop tard ! Les «misérables» ont d’ailleurs peu à perdre. Ils préféreront conserver leur misère à l’intérieur d’une communauté musulmane. Leur sort sans doute restera inchangé. Nous avons d’eux une conception trop occidentale. Aux bienfaits que nous prétendons pouvoir leur apporter, ils préféreront l’avenir de leur race. L’Afrique noire ne restera pas longtemps insensible à ce processus. Tout ce que nous pouvons faire, c’est prendre conscience de la gravité du phénomène et tenter d’en retarder l’évolution. André Malraux (1956)
Nous sommes encore proches de cette période des grandes expositions internationales qui regardait de façon utopique la mondialisation comme l’Exposition de Londres – la « Fameuse » dont parle Dostoievski, les expositions de Paris… Plus on s’approche de la vraie mondialisation plus on s’aperçoit que la non-différence ce n’est pas du tout la paix parmi les hommes mais ce peut être la rivalité mimétique la plus extravagante. On était encore dans cette idée selon laquelle on vivait dans le même monde: on n’est plus séparé par rien de ce qui séparait les hommes auparavant donc c’est forcément le paradis. Ce que voulait la Révolution française. Après la nuit du 4 août, plus de problème ! René Girard
L’inauguration majestueuse de l’ère « post-chrétienne » est une plaisanterie. Nous sommes dans un ultra-christianisme caricatural qui essaie d’échapper à l’orbite judéo-chrétienne en « radicalisant » le souci des victimes dans un sens antichrétien. (…) Jusqu’au nazisme, le judaïsme était la victime préférentielle de ce système de bouc émissaire. Le christianisme ne venait qu’en second lieu. Depuis l’Holocauste, en revanche, on n’ose plus s’en prendre au judaïsme, et le christianisme est promu au rang de bouc émissaire numéro un. René Girard
Nous sommes entrés dans un mouvement qui est de l’ordre du religieux. Entrés dans la mécanique du sacrilège: la victime, dans nos sociétés, est entourée de l’aura du sacré. Du coup, l’écriture de l’histoire, la recherche universitaire, se retrouvent soumises à l’appréciation du législateur et du juge comme, autrefois, à celle de la Sorbonne ecclésiastique. Françoise Chandernagor
Nous sommes une société qui, tous les cinquante ans ou presque, est prise d’une sorte de paroxysme de vertu – une orgie d’auto-purification à travers laquelle le mal d’une forme ou d’une autre doit être chassé. De la chasse aux sorcières de Salem aux chasses aux communistes de l’ère McCarthy à la violente fixation actuelle sur la maltraitance des enfants, on retrouve le même fil conducteur d’hystérie morale. Après la période du maccarthisme, les gens demandaient : mais comment cela a-t-il pu arriver ? Comment la présomption d’innocence a-t-elle pu être abandonnée aussi systématiquement ? Comment de grandes et puissantes institutions ont-elles pu accepté que des enquêteurs du Congrès aient fait si peu de cas des libertés civiles – tout cela au nom d’une guerre contre les communistes ? Comment était-il possible de croire que des subversifs se cachaient derrière chaque porte de bibliothèque, dans chaque station de radio, que chaque acteur de troisième zone qui avait appartenu à la mauvaise organisation politique constituait une menace pour la sécurité de la nation ? Dans quelques décennies peut-être les gens ne manqueront pas de se poser les mêmes questions sur notre époque actuelle; une époque où les accusations de sévices les plus improbables trouvent des oreilles bienveillantes; une époque où il suffit d’être accusé par des sources anonymes pour être jeté en pâture à la justice; une époque où la chasse à ceux qui maltraitent les enfants est devenu une pathologie nationale. Dorothy Rabinowitz
La glorification d’une race et le dénigrement corollaire d’une autre ou d’autres a toujours été et sera une recette de meurtre. Ceci est une loi absolue. Si on laisse quelqu’un subir un traitement particulièrement défavorable à un groupe quelconque d’individus en raison de leur race ou de leur couleur de peau, on ne saurait fixer de limites aux mauvais traitements dont ils seront l’objet et puisque la race entière a été condamnée pour des raisons mystérieuses il n’y a aucune raison pour ne pas essayer de la détruire dans son intégralité. C’est précisément ce que les nazis auraient voulu accomplir (…) J’ai beaucoup à cœur de voir les noirs conquérir leur liberté aux Etats Unis. Mais leur dignité et leur santé spirituelle me tiennent également à cœur et je me dois de m’opposer à toutes tentatives des noirs de faire à d’autres ce qu’on leur a fait. James Baldwin
The recent flurry of marches, demonstrations and even riots, along with the Democratic Party’s spiteful reaction to the Trump presidency, exposes what modern liberalism has become: a politics shrouded in pathos. Unlike the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, when protesters wore their Sunday best and carried themselves with heroic dignity, today’s liberal marches are marked by incoherence and downright lunacy—hats designed to evoke sexual organs, poems that scream in anger yet have no point to make, and an hysterical anti-Americanism. All this suggests lostness, the end of something rather than the beginning. (…) America, since the ’60s, has lived through what might be called an age of white guilt. We may still be in this age, but the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us. White guilt (…) is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. (…) It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is. (…) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, good liberals both, pursued power by offering their candidacies as opportunities for Americans to document their innocence of the nation’s past. “I had to vote for Obama,” a rock-ribbed Republican said to me. “I couldn’t tell my grandson that I didn’t vote for the first black president.” For this man liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against stigmatization. For Mr. Obama it was raw political power in the real world, enough to lift him—unknown and untested—into the presidency. But for Mrs. Clinton, liberalism was not enough. The white guilt that lifted Mr. Obama did not carry her into office—even though her opponent was soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist. Perhaps the Obama presidency was the culmination of the age of white guilt, so that this guiltiness has entered its denouement. (…) Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face. (…) Today’s liberalism is an anachronism. It has no understanding, really, of what poverty is and how it has to be overcome. (…) Four thousand shootings in Chicago last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is exhausted because it has become a corruption. Shelby Steele
For over forty years the left has been successfully reshaping American culture. Social mores and government policies about sexuality, marriage, the sexes, race relations, morality, and ethics have changed radically. The collective wisdom of the human race that we call tradition has been marginalized or discarded completely. The role of religion in public life has been reduced to a private preference. And politics has been increasingly driven by the assumptions of progressivism: internationalism privileged over nationalism, centralization of power over its dispersal in federalism, elitist technocracy over democratic republicanism, “human sciences” over common sense, and dependent clients over autonomous citizens. But the election of Donald Trump, and the overreach of the left’s response to that victory, suggest that we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the left’s cultural, social, and political dominance. The two terms of Barack Obama seemed to be the crowning validation of the left’s victory. Despite Obama’s “no blue state, no red state” campaign rhetoric, he governed as the most leftist––and ineffectual–– president in history. Deficits exploded, taxes were raised, new entitlements created, and government expanded far beyond the dreams of center-left Democrats. Marriage and sex identities were redefined. The narrative of permanent white racism was endorsed and promoted. Tradition-minded Americans were scorned as “bitter clingers to guns and religion.” Hollywood and Silicon Valley became even more powerful cultural arbiters and left-wing publicists. And cosmopolitan internationalism was privileged over patriotic nationalism, while American exceptionalism was reduced to an irrational parochial prejudice. The shocking repudiation of the establishment left’s anointed successor, Hillary Clinton, was the first sign that perhaps the hubristic left had overreached, and summoned nemesis in the form of a vulgar, braggadocios reality television star and casino developer who scorned the hypocritical rules of decorum and political correctness that even many Republicans adopted to avoid censure and calumny. Yet rather than learning the tragic self-knowledge that Aristotle says compensates the victim of nemesis, the left overreached yet again with its outlandish, hysterical tantrums over Trump’s victory. The result has been a stark exposure of the left’s incoherence and hypocrisy so graphic and preposterous that they can no longer be ignored. First, the now decidedly leftist Democrats refused to acknowledge their political miscalculations. Rather than admit that their party has drifted too far left beyond the beliefs of the bulk of the states’ citizens, they shifted blame onto a whole catalogue of miscreants: Russian meddling, a careerist FBI director, their own lap-dog media, endemic sexism, an out-of-date Electoral College, FOX News, and irredeemable “deplorables” were just a few. Still high on the “permanent majority” Kool-Aid they drank during the Obama years, they pitched a fit and called it “resistance,” as though comfortably preaching to the media, university, and entertainment choirs was like fighting Nazis in occupied France. (…) in colleges and universities. Normal people watched as some of the most privileged young people in history turned their subjective slights and bathetic discontents into weapons of tyranny, shouting down or driving away speakers they didn’t like, and calling for “muscle” to enforce their assault on the First Amendment. Relentlessly repeated on FOX News and on the Drudge Report, these antics galvanized large swaths of American voters who used to be amused, but now were disgusted by such displays of rank ingratitude and arrogant dismissal of Constitutional rights. And voters could see that the Democrats encouraged and enabled this nonsense. The prestige of America’s best universities, where most of these rites of passage for the scions of the well-heeled occurred, was even more damaged than it had been in the previous decades. So too with the world of entertainment. Badly educated actors, musicians, and entertainers, those glorified jugglers, jesters, and sword-swallowers who fancy themselves “artists,” have let loose an endless stream of dull leftwing clichés and bromides that were in their dotage fifty years ago. The spectacle of moral preening coming from the entertainment industry––one that trades in vulgarity, misogyny, sexual exploitation, the glorification of violence, and, worst of all, the production of banal, mindless movies and television shows recycling predictable plots, villains, and heroes––has disgusted millions of voters, who are sick of being lectured to by overpaid carnies. So they vote with their feet for the alternatives, while movie grosses and television ratings decline. As for the media, their long-time habit of substituting political activism for journalism, unleashed during the Obama years, has been freed from its last restraints while covering Trump. The contrast between the “slobbering love affair,” as Bernie Goldberg described the media’s coverage of Obama, and the obsessive Javert-like hounding of Trump has stripped the last veil of objectivity from the media. They’ve been exposed as flacks no longer seeking the truth, but manufacturing partisan narratives. The long cover-up of the Weinstein scandal is further confirmation of the media’s amoral principles and selective outrage. With numerous alternatives to the activism of the mainstream media now available, the legacy media that once dominated the reporting of news and political commentary are now shrinking in influence and lashing out in fury at their diminished prestige and profits. Two recent events have focused this turn against the sixties’ hijacking of the culture. The preposterous “protests” by NFL players disrespecting the flag during pregame ceremonies has angered large numbers of Americans and hit the League in the wallet. The race card that always has trumped every political or social conflict has perhaps lost its power. The spectacle of rich one-percenters recycling lies about police encounters with blacks and the endemic racism of American society has discredited the decades-long racial narrative constantly peddled by Democrats, movies, television shows, and school curricula from grade-school to university. The endless scolding of white people by blacks more privileged than the majority of human beings who ever existed has lost its credibility. The racial good will that got a polished mediocrity like Barack Obama twice elected president perhaps has been squandered in this attempt of rich people who play games to pose as perpetual victims. These supposed victims appear more interested in camouflaging their privilege than improving the lives of their so-called “brothers” and “sisters.” The second is the Harvey Weinstein scandal. A lavish donor to Democrats––praised by Hillary Clinton and the Obamas, given standing ovations at awards shows by the politically correct, slavishly courted and feted by progressive actors and entertainers, and long known to be a vicious sexual predator by these same progressive “feminists” supposedly anguished by the plight of women––perhaps will become the straw that breaks the back of progressive ideology. (…) The spectacle of a rich feminist and progressive icon like Jane Fonda whimpering about her own moral cowardice has destroyed the credibility we foolishly gave to Hollywood’s dunces and poltroons. Bruce Thornton
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise). Black Lives Matter
BLM’s « what we believe » page, calling for the destruction of the nuclear family among many other radical left wing agenda items, has been deleted » pic.twitter.com/qCZxUFMZH4 Matt Walsh
Correction: This article’s headline originally stated that People of Praise inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. The book’s author, Margaret Atwood, has never specifically mentioned the group as being the inspiration for her work. A New Yorker profile of the author from 2017 mentions a newspaper clipping as part of her research for the book of a different charismatic Catholic group, People of Hope. Newsweek regrets the error. Newsweek
Je conseille à tout le monde d’être un peu prudent quand ils passent par là, rester éveillé, garder les yeux ouverts. Leadbelly (« Scottsboro Boys », 1938)
If You’re Woke You Dig It. William Melvin Kelley (1962)
I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr. Garvey done woke me up, I’m gon’ stay woke. And I’m gon help him wake up other black folk. Barry Beckham (1972)
I am known to stay awake A beautiful world I’m trying to find I’ve been in search of myself (…) I am in the search of something new (A beautiful world I’m trying to find) Searchin’ me Searching inside of you And that’s fo’ real What if it were no niggas Only master teachers? I stay woke. Erykah Badu (2008)
La vérité ne nécessite aucune croyance. / Restez réveillé. Regardez attentivement. / #FreePussyRiot. Erykah Badu
Wikipédia est-il  assez woke ? Bloomberg Businessweek
L’énigme est intégrée. Lorsque les Blancs aspirent à obtenir des points pour la conscience, ils marchent directement dans la ligne de mire entre l’alliance et l’appropriation. Amanda Hess
WOKE: Adjectif dérivé du verbe anglais awake (« s’éveiller »), il désigne un membre d’un groupe dominant, conscient du système oppressant les minorités et n’hésitant pas à dénoncer les discriminations en utilisant le vocabulaire intersectionnel. Marianne
Le grand réveil (Great Awakening) correspond à une vague de réveils religieux dans le Royaume de Grande-Bretagne et ses colonies américaines au milieu du XVIIIe siècle. Le terme de Great Awakening est apparu vers 1842. On le retrouve dans le titre de l’ouvrage consacré par Joseph Tracy au renouveau religieux qui débuta en Grande-Bretagne et dans ses colonies américaines dans les années 1720, progressa considérablement dans les années 1740 pour s’atténuer dans les années 1760 voire 1770. Il sera suivi de nouvelles vagues de réveil, le second grand réveil (1790-1840) et une troisième vague de réveils entre 1855 et les premières décennies du XXe siècle. Ces réveils religieux dans la tradition protestante et surtout dans le contexte américain sont compris comme une période de redynamisation de la vie religieuse. Le Great Awakening toucha des églises protestantes et des églises chrétiennes évangéliques et contribua à la formation de nouvelles Églises. Wikipedia
Woke est un terme apparu durant les années 2010 aux États-Unis, pour décrire un état d’esprit militant et combatif pour la protection des minorités et contre le racisme. Il dérive du verbe wake (réveiller), pour décrire un état d’éveil face à l’injustice. Il est dans un premier temps utilisé dans le mouvement de Black Lives Matter, avant d’être repris plus largement. Depuis la fin des années 2010, le terme Woke s’est déployé et aujourd’hui une personne « woke » se définit comme étant consciente de toutes les injustices et de toutes les formes d’inégalités, d’oppression qui pèsent sur les minorités, du racisme au sexisme en passant par les préoccupations environnementales et utilisant généralement un vocabulaire intersectionnel. Son usage répandu serait dû au mouvement Black Lives Matter. Le terme Woke est non seulement associé aux militantismes antiraciste, féministe et LGBT mais aussi à une politique de gauche dite progressiste et à certaines réflexions face aux problèmes socioculturels (les termes culture Woke et politique Woke sont également utilisés). (…) Les termes Woke et wide awake (complètement éveillé) sont apparus pour la première fois dans la culture politique et les annonces politiques lors de l’ élection présidentielle américaine de 1860 pour soutenir Abraham Lincoln. Le Parti républicain a cultivé le mouvement pour s’opposer principalement à la propagation de l’esclavage, comme décrit dans le mouvement Wide Awakes. Les dictionnaires d’Oxford enregistrent  une utilisation politiquement consciente précoce en 1962 dans l’article « If You’re Woke You Dig It » de William Melvin Kelley dans le New York Times et dans la pièce de 1971 Garvey Lives! de Barry Beckham (« I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr. Garvey done woke me up, I’m gon’ stay woke. And I’m gon help him wake up other black folk. »). Garvey avait lui-même exhorté ses auditoires du début du XXe siècle, « Wake up Ethiopia! Wake up Africa! » (« Réveillez-vous Éthiopie! Réveillez-vous Afrique! »en français). Auparavant, Jay Saunders Redding avait enregistré un commentaire d’un employé afro-américain du syndicat United Mine Workers of America en 1940 (« Laissez-moi vous dire, mon ami. Se réveiller est beaucoup plus difficile que de dormir, mais nous resterons éveillés plus longtemps. »). Leadbelly utilise la phrase vers la fin de l’enregistrement de sa chanson de 1938 « Scottsboro Boys », tout en expliquant l’incident du même nom, en disant « Je conseille à tout le monde d’être un peu prudent quand ils passent par là, rester éveillé, garder les yeux ouverts ». La première utilisation moderne du terme « Woke » apparaît dans la chanson « Master Teacher » de l’album New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (2008) de la chanteuse de soul Erykah Badu. Tout au long de la chanson, Badu chante la phrase: « I stay woke ». Bien que la phrase n’ait pas encore de lien avec les problèmes de justice, la chanson de Badu est créditée du lien ultérieur avec ces problèmes. To « stay woke » (Rester éveillé) dans ce sens exprime l’aspect grammatical continu et habituel intensifié de l’anglais vernaculaire afro-américain : en substance, être toujours éveillé, ou être toujours vigilant. David Stovall a dit: « Erykah l’a amené vivant dans la culture populaire. Elle veut dire ne pas être apaisée, ne pas être anesthésiée. » Le concept d’être Woke (réveillé en anglais) soutient l’idée que ce type de prise de conscience doit être acquise. Le rappeur Earl Sweatshirt se souvient d’avoir chanté « I stay woke » sur la chanson et sa mère a refusé la chanson et a répondu: « Non, tu ne l’es pas. » En 2012, les utilisateurs de Twitter, y compris Erykah Badu, ont commencé à utiliser « Woke » et « stay Woke » en relation avec des questions de justice sociale et raciale et #StayWoke est devenu un mot-dièse largement utilisé. Badu a incité ceci avec la première utilisation politiquement chargée de l’expression sur Twitter. Elle a tweeté pour soutenir le groupe de musique féministe russe Pussy Riot : « La vérité ne nécessite aucune croyance. / Restez réveillé. Regardez attentivement. / #FreePussyRiot. » Le terme Woke s’est répandu dans un usage courant dans le monde anglo-saxon par les médias sociaux et des cercles militants. Par exemple, en 2016, le titre d’un article de Bloomberg Businessweek demandait « Is Wikipedia Woke? » (« Est-ce que Wikipédia est Woke ? »), en faisant référence à la base de contributeurs largement blancs de l’encyclopédie en ligne. Enfin, le terme Woke s’est étendu à d’autres causes et d’autres usages, plus mondains. Car, en effet, tout semble maintenant ainsi « éveillé » : la 75ème cérémonie des Golden Globes, marquée par l’affaire Weinstein et la volonté d’en finir avec le harcèlement sexuel, était en partie Woke, selon le New York Times. Le magazine London Review of Books affirme même que la famille royale britannique est désormais Woke d’après les récentes fiançailles du prince Harry avec l’actrice métisse Meghan Markle, dont les positions anti-Donald Trump sont bien connues. À la fin des années 2010, le terme « Woke » avait pris pour indiquer « une paranoïa saine, en particulier sur les questions de justice raciale et politique » et a été adopté comme un terme d’argot plus générique et a fait l’objet de mèmes. Par exemple, MTV News l’a identifié comme un mot-clé d’argot adolescent pour 2016. Dans le New York Times, Amanda Hess a exprimé des inquiétudes quant au fait que le mot Woke a été culturellement approprié, écrivant: « L’énigme est intégrée. Lorsque les Blancs aspirent à obtenir des points pour la conscience, ils marchent directement dans la ligne de mire entre l’alliance et l’appropriation. Wikipedia
On ne peut comprendre la gauche si on ne comprend pas que le gauchisme est une religion. Dennis Prager
You cannot understand the Left if you do not understand that leftism is a religion. It is not God-based (some left-wing Christians’ and Jews’ claims notwithstanding), but otherwise it has every characteristic of a religion. The most blatant of those characteristics is dogma. People who believe in leftism have as many dogmas as the most fundamentalist Christian. One of them is material equality as the preeminent moral goal. Another is the villainy of corporations. The bigger the corporation, the greater the villainy. Thus, instead of the devil, the Left has Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, the “military-industrial complex,” and the like. Meanwhile, Big Labor, Big Trial Lawyers, and — of course — Big Government are left-wing angels. And why is that? Why, to be specific, does the Left fear big corporations but not big government? The answer is dogma — a belief system that transcends reason. No rational person can deny that big governments have caused almost all the great evils of the last century, arguably the bloodiest in history. Who killed the 20 to 30 million Soviet citizens in the Gulag Archipelago — big government or big business? Hint: There were no private businesses in the Soviet Union. Who deliberately caused 75 million Chinese to starve to death — big government or big business? Hint: See previous hint. Did Coca-Cola kill 5 million Ukrainians? Did Big Oil slaughter a quarter of the Cambodian population? Would there have been a Holocaust without the huge Nazi state? Whatever bad things big corporations have done is dwarfed by the monstrous crimes — the mass enslavement of people, the deprivation of the most basic human rights, not to mention the mass murder and torture and genocide — committed by big governments. (…) Religious Christians and Jews also have some irrational beliefs, but their irrationality is overwhelmingly confined to theological matters; and these theological irrationalities have no deleterious impact on religious Jews’ and Christians’ ability to see the world rationally and morally. Few religious Jews or Christians believe that big corporations are in any way analogous to big government in terms of evil done. And the few who do are leftists. That the Left demonizes Big Pharma, for instance, is an example of this dogmatism. America’s pharmaceutical companies have saved millions of lives, including millions of leftists’ lives. And I do not doubt that in order to increase profits they have not always played by the rules. But to demonize big pharmaceutical companies while lionizing big government, big labor unions, and big tort-law firms is to stand morality on its head. There is yet another reason to fear big government far more than big corporations. ExxonMobil has no police force, no IRS, no ability to arrest you, no ability to shut you up, and certainly no ability to kill you. ExxonMobil can’t knock on your door in the middle of the night and legally take you away. Apple Computer cannot take your money away without your consent, and it runs no prisons. The government does all of these things. Of course, the Left will respond that government also does good and that corporations and capitalists are, by their very nature, “greedy.” To which the rational response is that, of course, government also does good. But so do the vast majority of corporations, private citizens, church groups, and myriad voluntary associations. On the other hand, only big government can do anything approaching the monstrous evils of the last century. As for greed: Between hunger for money and hunger for power, the latter is incomparably more frightening. It is noteworthy that none of the twentieth century’s monsters — Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao — were preoccupied with material gain. They loved power much more than money. And that is why the Left is much more frightening than the Right. It craves power.  Dennis Prager
What I found most interesting and provocative is Bottum’s thesis that although it seems that the moral core of modern American society has been entirely secularized, and religion and religious institutions play little role in shaping those views, in fact the watered-down gruel of moral views served up by elite establishment opinion (recycling, multiculturalism, and the like) is a remnant of the old collection of Protestant mainline views that dominated American society for decades or even centuries. To highlight the important sociological importance of religion in American society, Bottum uses the now-familiar metaphor of a three-legged stool in describing American society (one that I and others have used as well): a balance between constitutional democracy, free market capitalism, and a strong and vibrant web of civil society institutions where moral lessons are taught and social capital is built. In the United States, the most important civil society organizations traditionally have been family and churches. And, among the churches, by far the most important were those that Bottum deems as the “Protestant Mainline” — Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist (Northern), Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist/United Church of Christ, etc. The data on changing membership in these churches is jaw-dropping. In 1965, for example, over half of the United States population claimed membership in one of the Protestant mainline churches. Today, by contrast, less than 10 percent of the population belongs to one of these churches. Moreover, those numbers are likely to continue to decline — the Protestant Mainline (“PM”) churches also sport the highest average age of any church group. Why does the suicide of the Protestant Mainline matter? Because for Bottum, these churches are what provided the sturdy third leg to balance politics and markets in making a good society. Indeed, Bottum sees the PM churches as the heart of American Exceptionalism — they provided the moral code of Americanism. Probity, responsibility, honesty, integrity — all the moral virtues that provided the bedrock of American society and also constrained the hydraulic and leveling tendencies of the state and market to devour spheres of private life. The collapse of this religious-moral consensus has been most pronounced among American elites, who have turned largely indifferent to formal religious belief. And in some leftist elite circles it has turned to outright hostility toward religion — Bottum reminds us of Barack Obama’s observation that rural Americans today cling to their “guns and Bibles” out of bitterness about changes in the world. Perhaps most striking is that anti-Catholic bigotry today is almost exclusively found on “the political Left, as it members rage about insidious Roman influence on the nation: the Catholic justices on the Supreme Court plotting to undo the abortion license, and the Catholic racists of the old rust belt states turning their backs on Obama to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Why is it no surprise that one of the last places in American Christianity to find good, old-fashioned anti-Catholicism is among the administrators of the dying Mainline…. They must be anti-Catholics precisely to the extent that they are also political leftists.” As the recent squabbles over compelling practicing Catholics to toe the new cultural line on same-sex marriage at the risk of losing their jobs or businesses, the political Left today is increasingly intolerant of recognizing a private sphere of belief outside of the crushing hand of political orthodoxy. Yet as Bottum notes, the traditional elite consensus has been replaced by a new spiritual orthodoxy of “morality.” The American elite (however defined) today does subscribe to a set of orthodoxies of what constitutes “proper” behavior: proper views on the environment, feminism, gay rights, etc. Thus, Bottum provocatively argues, the PM hasn’t gone away, it has simply evolved into a new form, a religion without God as it were, in which the Sierra club, universities, and Democratic Party have supplanted the Methodists and Presbyterians as the teachers of proper values. (…) Bottum points to the key moment as the emergence of the Social Gospel movement in the early 20th Century. Led by Walter Rauschenbusch, the Social Gospel movement reached beyond the traditional view that Christianity spoke to personal failings such as sin, but instead reached “the social sin of all mankind, to which all who ever lived have contributed, and under which all who ever lived have suffered.” As Bottum summarizes it, Rauschenbusch identified six social sins: “bigotry, the arrogance of power, the corruption of justice for personal ends, the madness [and groupthink] of the mob, militarism, and class contempt.” As religious belief moved from the pulpit and pew to the voting booth and activism, the role of Jesus and any religious belief became increasingly attenuated. And eventually, Bottum suggests, the political agenda itself came to overwhelm the increasingly irrelevant religious beliefs that initially supported it. Indeed, to again consider contemporary debates, what matters most is outward conformity to orthodox opinion, not persuasion and inward acceptance of a set of particular views–as best illustrated by the lynch mobs that attacked Brendan Eich for his political donations (his outward behavior) and to compel conformity of behavior among wedding cake bakers and the like, all of which bears little relation to (and in fact is likely counterproductive) to changing personal belief. (Of course, that too is an unstable equilibrium–in the future it won’t be sufficient to not merely not be politically opposed to same-sex marriage, it will be a litmus test to be affirmatively in favor of it.). Thus, while the modern elite appears to be largely non-religious, Bottum argues that they are the subconscious heirs to the old Protestant Mainline, but are merely Post-Protestant — the same demographic group of people holding more or less the same views and fighting the same battles as the advocates of the social gospel. In the second part of the book, Bottum turns to his second theme — the effort beginning around 2000 of Catholics and Evangelical Christians to form an alliance to create a new moral consensus to replace the void left by the collapse Protestant Mainline churches. Oversimplified, Bottum’s basic point is that this was an effort to marry the zeal and energy of Evangelical churches to the long, well-developed natural law theory of Catholicism, including Catholic social teaching. Again oversimplified, Bottum’s argument is that this effort was doomed on both sides of the equation–first, Catholicism is simply too dense and “foreign” to ever be a majoritarian church in the United States; and second, because evangelical Christianity itself has lost much of its vibrant nature. Bottum notes, which I hadn’t realized, that after years of rapid growth, evangelical Christianity appears to be in some decline in membership. Thus, the religious void remains. The obvious question with which one is left is if Bottum is correct that religious institutions uphold the third leg of the American stool, and if (as he claims) religion is the key to American exceptionalism, can America survive without a continued vibrant religious tradition? (…) Campus protests today, for example, often seem to be sort of a form of performance art, where the gestures of protest and being seen to “care” are ends in themselves, as often the protests themselves have goals that are somewhat incoherent (compared to, say, protests against the Vietnam War). Bottum describes this as a sort of spirtual angst, a vague discomfort with the way things are and an even vaguer desire for change. On this point I wonder whether he is being too generous to their motives. (…) But there is one thesis that he doesn’t consider that I think contributes much of the explanation of the decline of the importance of the Protestant Mainline, which is the thesis developed by Shelby Steele is his great book “White Guilt.” I think Steele’s argument provides the key to unlocking not only the decline of the Protestant Mainline but also the timing, and why the decline of the Protestant Mainline has been so much more precipitous than Evangelicals and Catholics, as well as why anti-Evangelical and anti-Catholic bigotry is so socially acceptable among liberal elites. Steele’s thesis, oversimplified, is that the elite institutions of American society for many years were complicit in a system that perpetrated injustices on many Americans. The government, large corporations, major universities, white-show law firms, fraternal organizations, etc.–the military being somewhat of an exception to this–all conspired explicitly or tacitly in a social system that supported first slavery then racial discrimination, inequality toward women, anti-Semitism, and other real injustices. Moreover, all of this came to a head in the 1960s, when these long-held and legitimate grievances bubbled to the surface and were finally recognized and acknowledged by those who ran these elite institutions and efforts were taken to remediate their harms. This complicity in America’s evils, Steele argues, discredited the moral authority of these institutions, leaving not only a vacuum at the heart of American society but an ongoing effort at their redemption. But, Steele argues, this is where things have become somewhat perverse. It wasn’t enough for, say, Coca-Cola to actually take steps to remediate its past sins, it was crucial for Coca-Cola to show that it was acknowledging its guilty legacy and, in particular, to demonstrate that it was now truly enlightened. But how to do that? Steele argues that this is the pivotal role played by hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton — they can sell the indulgences to corporations, universities, and the other guilty institutions to allow them to demonstrate that they “understand” and accept their guilt and through bowing to Jackson’s demands, Jackson can give them a clean bill of moral health. Thus, Steele says that what is really going on is an effort by the leaders of these institutions to “dissociate” themselves from their troubled past and peer institutions today that lack the same degree of enlightenment. Moreover, it is crucially important that the Jackson’s of the world set the terms–indeed, the more absurd and ridiculous the penance the better from this perspective, because more ridiculous penances make it easier to demonstrate your acceptance of your guilt. One set of institutions that Steele does not address, but which fits perfectly into his thesis, is the Protestant Mainline churches that Bottum is describing. It is precisely because the Protestant Mainline churches were the moral backbone of American society that they were in need of the same sort of moral redemption that universities, corporations, and the government. Indeed, because of their claim to be the moral exemplar, their complicity in real injustice was especially bad. Much of the goofiness of the Mainline Protestant churches over the past couple of decades can be well-understood, I think, through this lens of efforts to dissociate themselves from their legacy and other less-enlightened churches. In short, it seems that often their religious dogma is reverse-engineered–they start from wanting to make sure that they hold the correct cutting-edge political and social views, then they retrofit a thin veil of religious belief over those social and political opinions. Such that their religious beliefs today, as far as one ever hears about them at all, differ little from the views of The New York Times editorial page. This also explains why Catholics and Evangelicals are so maddening, and threatening, to the modern elites. Unlike the Protestant Mainline churches that were the moral voice of the American establishment, Catholicism and Evangelicals have always been outsiders to the American establishment. Thus they bear none of the guilt of having supported unjust political and social systems and refuse to act like they do. They have no reason to kowtow to elite opinion and, indeed, are often quite populist in their worldview (consider the respect that Justices Scalia or Thomas have for the moral judgments of ordinary Americans on issues like abortion or same-sex marriage vs. the views of elites). Given the sorry record of American elites for decades, there is actually a dividing line between two world views. Modern elites believe that the entire American society was to blame, thus we all share guilt and must all seek forgiveness through affirmative action, compulsory sensitivity training, and recycling mandates. Others, notably Catholics and Evangelicals, refuse to accept blame for a social system that they played no role in creating or maintaining and which, in fact, they were excluded themselves. To some extent, therefore, I think that the often-remarked political fault line in American society along religious lines (which Bottum discusses extensively), is as much cultural and historical (in Steele’s sense) as disagreements over religion per se. At the same time, the decline of its moral authority hit the Protestant Mainline churches harder than well-entrenched universities, corporations, or the government, in part because the embrace of the Social Gospel had laid the foundations for their own obsolescence years before. This also explains why if a religious revival is to occur, it would come from the alliance of Catholics and Evangelicals that he describes in the second half of the book. Mainline Protestantism seems to simply lack the moral authority to revive itself and has essentially made itself obsolete. There appears to be little market for religions without God.
In the end, Bottum leaves us with no answer to his central question–can America, which for so long relied on the Protestant Mainline churches to provide a moral and institutional third leg to the country, survive without it. Can the thin gruel of the post-Protestant New York Times elite consensus provide the moral glue that used to hold the country together? Perhaps, or perhaps not — that is the question we are left with after reading Bottum’s fascinating book. Finally, (…) I wanted to call attention to Jody’s new essay at the Weekly Standard “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas” that touches on many of the themes of the book and develops them in light of ongoing controversies, especially on the parallels between the new moral consensus and traditional religious thinking (and, in fact, his comments on “original sin” strike me as similar to the points about Shelby Steele that I raised above).
Todd Zywicki
I was simply going to take up the fact that America was in essence a Protestant nation from its founding, from the arrival of the Puritans—and well, it’s a little more sophisticated than that, really from William and Mary on this was a Protestant country—and that we needed to sort of describe what Tocqueville called the main current of that. Now mainline is a word from much later, from the 1930s, but there always was a kind of main current of a general Protestantism. And I wanted to look at its political consequences and cultural consequences. However much the rival Protestant denominations feuded with one another, disagreed with one another, I thought they gave a tone to the nation. And one of the things that they did particularly from the Civil War on was constrain social and political demons. They corralled them. They gave a shape to America, which was the marriage culture, the shape of funerals, life and death, birth, the family. They gave a shape to the cultural and sociological condition of America. And it struck me at the time, so I followed up that essay on the death of Protestant America with a whole book. And then subsequently applying it to the political situation that I saw emerging then in a big cover story for The Weekly Standard, called “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas.” And in that kind of threefold push, I thought, “No one that I know is taking seriously the massive sociological change, perhaps the biggest in American history.” From 1965 when the Protestant churches, the mainline churches, by which I mean the founding churches in the National Council of Churches and the God box up on Riverside Drive—those churches, and their affiliated black churches, constituted or had membership that was just over fifty percent of America, as late as 1965. Today that number is well under 10 percent and that’s a huge sociological change that nobody to me seems to be paying sufficient attention to. (…) in (…) mainstream sociological discussions of America that just was not appearing as anything significant, and I thought it was profoundly significant and that the attempt of some of our neoconservative Catholic friends—and I was in the belly of that beast in those days—to substitute Catholicism for the failed American cultural pillar of the mainline Protestant churches—that project, interesting as it was, failed, and that consequently, I predicted, we were going to see ever-larger sociological and cultural and political upset. Because there was no turning these demons of the human condition into an understanding of their personal application. Instead they just became cultural. And I trace this move, perhaps unfairly, but I traced it to Rauschenbusch. And said when you say that it’s not individual sin, it’s social sin. And he lists six of them and they are exactly what the protestors are out in the street against right now. It’s what he called bigotry, which we used the word racism for, its militarism, its authoritarianism, and he names these six social sins and they are exactly the ones that the protesters are out against. But I said the trouble with Rauschenbusch, who was a believer—I think he was a serious Christian and profoundly biblically educated so that his speech was just ripe with biblical quotations—the problem with him is the subsequent generations don’t need the church anymore. They don’t need Jesus anymore. He thinks of Jesus—in the metaphor I use—for the social gospel movement as it developed into just the social movement. Christ is the ladder by which we climb to the new ledge of understanding, but once we’re on that ledge, we don’t need the ladder anymore. The logic of it is quite clear. We’ve reached this new height of moral and ethical understanding. Yes, thank you, Jesus Christ and the revelations taught it to us, but we’re there now. What need have we for a personal relationship with Jesus, what we need have we for a church? Having achieved this sentiment that knows that sin is these social constructs of destructiveness and our anxiety, the spiritual anxiety that human beings always feel, just by being human, is here answered. How do you know that you are saved today? You know that you are saved because you have the right attitude toward social sins. That’s how you know. Now they wouldn’t say saved; they would say, “How do you know you’re a good person?” But that’s just the logic. The logical pattern is the same. And I develop that in the essay, “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas” by analyzing as tightly as I could the way in which white guilt is original sin. It’s original sin divorced from the theology that let it make sense. But the pattern of internal logic is exactly the same. It produces the same need to find salvation. It produces the same need to know that you are good by knowing that you are bad. It produces the same logic by which Paul would say, “Before the law there was no sin.” It has all of the same patterns of reason, except as you pointed out in your introduction, there’s no atonement. It’s as though (…) we’re living in St. Augustine’s metaphysics, but with all the Christ stuff stripped out. It’s a dark world; it’s a grim world. We’re inherently guilty and there’s no salvation. There’s no escape from it. Except for the destruction of all. Which is why I then moved in that essay to talk about shunning in its modern forms, again divorced from the structures that once made it make sense, and apocalypse. The sense that we’re living at the end of the world and things are so terrible and so destructive that all the ordinary niceties of manners, of balancing judgment and so on, those are—if someone says, “We are destroying the planet and we’re all going to die unless you do what I want,” if I say, “Well we need to hear other voices,” they say, “That’s complicity with evil.” Right? The end of the world is coming; this is this apocalyptic imagination. Now all of that I think was once upon a time in America—and I’m speaking only politically and sociologically—all of that was corralled, or much of it was corralled in the churches. You were taught a frame to understand your dissatisfactions with the world. You were taught a frame to understand the horror, the metaphysical horror that is the fact (…) that you and I are going to die. You were taught this frame that made it bearable and made it possible to move somewhere with it. With the breaking of that, these demons are let loose and now they’re out there. I’ve often said (…) that the history of America since World War II is a history of a fourth Great Awakening that never quite happened. In a sense what I’ve seen for some years building and is now taking to the streets once again is the fourth Great Awakening except without the Christianity. I see in other words what’s happening out there as spiritual anxiety. But spiritual anxiety occurring in a world in which these people have no answer. They just have outrage. And it’s an escalating outrage. This is where the single most influential thinker in my thought—a modern thinker—is Rene Girard, and Rene Girard’s idea of the escalation of mimetic rivalry. The ways in which we get ever purer and we seek ever more tiny examples of evil that we can scapegoat and we enter into competition, this rivalry, to see who is more pure. This is exactly the motor, the Girardian motor, on which my idea of the spiritual anxiety runs. And so, statues of George Washington are coming down now. And once upon a time, in the generation that I grew up in, and the generation that you grew up in, George Washington was—there were things bad things to say about him—but this was tantamount to saying America was a mistake. And of course these people think America was a mistake, because they think the whole history of the world is a mistake. There’s this outrage. And the outrage I think is spiritual. And that’s why it doesn’t get answered when voices of calm reason say, “Well, let’s consider all sides. Yes, there were mistakes that were made and evils that were done, but let’s try to fix them.” Spiritual anxiety doesn’t get answered by, “Oh well, let’s fix something.” It gets answered by the flame. It gets answered by the looting. It gets answered by the tearing down. (…) But creation appears to us in concrete guises, and the concrete guise right now is America. So, this is why you’ll get praise of ancient civilizations. Or you get the historical insanity of a US senator standing up on the well of the Senate and saying America invented slavery, that there was no slavery before the United States. That’s historically insane, but it’s not unlearned because we’ve passed beyond ignorance here. There’s something willful about it. And that’s what’s extraordinary, I think. And yeah, I’m glad you look back to my 10-year-old book now because I think I did predict some of this, although obviously not in its particulars. But there was a warning there that the collapse of the mainline Protestant churches was going to introduce a demonic element into American life. And lo and behold, it has. (…) there are multiple questions there (…). Why Catholicism failed, why the evangelicals and Catholics together failed. So Catholicism by itself failed. The evangelicals and Catholics together project failed to provide this moral pillar to American discourse. And then there are a variety of reasons for that, beginning with the fact that Catholicism is an alien religion, alien to America. Jews and Catholics were more or less welcome to live here, but we understood that we lived on the banks of a great Mississippi of Protestantism that poured down the center of this country. But the question of why it failed is one thing. The question of why the mainline Protestant churches failed is yet another part of your question. And although I list several examples that people have offered, I don’t make a decision about that in part because I am a Catholic. I have a suspicion that Protestantism with a higher sense of personal salvation, but a less thick metaphysics, was more susceptible to the line of the social gospel movement. But I don’t know that for certain so in the book I’m merely presenting these possibilities. And then evangelicalism, Catholicism, was under attack for wounds, some of which it committed itself. Evangelicalism is in decline in America. The statistics show that this period when it seemed to be going from strength to strength may have been fueled most of all by the death of the mainline churches. They were just picking up those members. Instead of going to the Methodist Church, they were going to the Bible church out on the prairie. But regardless, that Christian discourse, that slightly secularized Christian discourse, that would allow Abraham Lincoln to make his speeches, that would provide the background to political rhetoric and so on, that’s all gone. And as a consequence, it seems to me we don’t have a shared culture and that’s part of what allows these protests. But also I think (…) a culture that no longer believes in itself, that no longer has horizons, and targets, and goals, that no longer has even the vaguest sense of a telos towards which we ought to move, a culture like that, if we look at it, we no longer have a measure of progress. We can’t say what an advance is along the way. All we can do is look at our history and see it as a catalog of crimes that we perpetrated in order to reach this point that we’re at. And we can’t see the good that came out of it. Because we don’t know what the good is, we don’t know what the telos is, the target, so we have no measure for that. So, we can’t celebrate the Civil War victory that ended slavery. All we can do is condemn slavery. We can’t celebrate the victory over the Nazis. We have to end World War II; all we can do is decry militarism and the crimes we committed to win that war, like the firebombing of Dresden, or  Hiroshima. And I think that that reasoning is quite exact because the young people that I hear speak—now I haven’t spent as much time on this as I perhaps should have, following the ins and outs of every protestor alive today—but what I’ve heard suggests that they condemn America to the core—the whole of America, of American history. There is nothing good about this nation. And there it seems to me the reasoning is quite exact. Unable to see a point to America, unable to see a goal. They are quite right that all they can see are the crimes. Whereas you and I are capable of saying, yes slavery was a great sin, and we got over it, and then the post-reconstruction settlement of Jim Crow was a great sin, but we got over it, and we still are committing sins to this day but the optimism of America is that we’ll get over it, we will find solutions to these because we feel that we are a city on a hill. We feel that we are heading somewhere. The telos may be vague, maybe inchoate, but its pull is real for people like you and me, Mark. These young people—who, I think partly because they’ve been systematically miss-educated—don’t have any feeling for that at all. And because they don’t, I think they are actually being quite rational in saying America is just evil, it’s a history of sin. (…) I think it’ll pass. These things pass. There are various rages that take to the streets, but they are to some degree victims of their own energy. They burn out, and I think this one will burn out. The thing that we are not seeing now—in fact we’re seeing the opposite—is someone standing up to them. The New York Times firing of its op-ed page editor over publication of an op-ed from a sitting US senator is really quite extraordinary if we think about it. But I don’t believe institutions can survive if they pander in this way. And I think eventually we’ll get one standing up. I haven’t heard yet from the publisher of J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, who the staff of her publishing house has declared themselves unwilling to work at a publisher that would publish a woman with such reprobate views of transgenderism. If the publisher doesn’t stand up to her, I think we may be in for another year of this. But I have a feeling she sells so well, that I don’t believe the publisher is going to give in. And if we have one person saying “That’s interesting, but if you can’t work here, you can’t work here, goodbye.” The first time we see that and they survived the subsequent Twitter outrage, I think we’ll see an end to the current cancel culture, which is of course the most insidious of the general social—the burning and the breaking of statues is physical, but the most destructive cultural thing right now is the cancel culture that gets people fired and their relatives fired and the rest of it. I think that has to end and I imagine it will, the first time somebody stands up to them and survives. Joseph Bottum
Quand j’ai écrit mon livre, je suis retourné à Max Weber et à Alexis de Tocqueville, car tous deux avaient identifié l’importance fondamentale de l’anxiété spirituelle que nous éprouvons tous. Il me semble qu’à la fin du XXe siècle et au début du XXIe siècle, nous avons oublié la centralité de cette anxiété, de ces démons ou anges spirituels qui nous habitent. Ils nous gouvernent de manière profondément dangereuse. Norman Mailer a dit un jour que toute la sociologie américaine avait été un effort désespéré pour essayer de dire quelque chose sur l’Amérique que Tocqueville n’avait pas dit! C’est vrai! Tocqueville avait saisi l’importance du fait religieux et de la panoplie des Églises protestantes qui ont défini la nation américaine. Il a montré que malgré leur nombre innombrable et leurs querelles, elles étaient parvenues à s’unir pour être ce qu’il appelait joliment «le courant central des manières et de la morale». Quelles que soient les empoignades entre anglicans épiscopaliens et congrégationalistes, entre congrégationalistes et presbytériens, entre presbytériens et baptistes, les protestants se sont combinés pour donner une forme à nos vies: celle des mariages, des baptêmes et des funérailles ; des familles, et même de la politique, en cela même que le protestantisme ne cesse d’affirmer qu’il y a quelque chose de plus important que la politique. Ce modèle a perduré jusqu’au milieu des années 1960. (…) Pour moi, c’est avant tout le mouvement de l’Évangile social qui a gagné les Églises protestantes, qui est à la racine de l’effondrement. Dans mon livre, je consacre deux chapitres à Walter Rauschenbusch, la figure clé. Mais il faut comprendre que le déclin des Églises européennes a aussi joué. L’une des sources d’autorité des Églises américaines venait de l’influence de théologiens européens éminents comme Wolfhart Pannenberg ou l’ancien premier ministre néerlandais Abraham Kuyper, esprit d’une grande profondeur qui venait souvent à Princeton donner des conférences devant des milliers de participants! Mais ils n’ont pas été remplacés. Le résultat de tout cela, c’est que l’Église protestante américaine a connu un déclin catastrophique. En 1965, 50 % des Américains appartenaient à l’une des 8 Églises protestantes dominantes. Aujourd’hui, ce chiffre s’établit à 4 %! Cet effondrement est le changement sociologique le plus fondamental des 50 dernières années, mais personne n’en parle. Une partie de ces protestants ont migré vers les Églises chrétiennes évangéliques, qui dans les années 1970, sous Jimmy Carter, ont émergé comme force politique. On a vu également un nombre surprenant de conversions au catholicisme, surtout chez les intellectuels. Mais la majorité sont devenus ce que j’appelle dans mon livre des «post-protestants», ce qui nous amène au décryptage des événements d’aujourd’hui. Ces post-protestants se sont approprié une série de thèmes empruntés à l’Évangile social de Walter Rauschenbusch. Quand vous reprenez les péchés sociaux qu’il faut selon lui rejeter pour accéder à une forme de rédemption – l’intolérance, le pouvoir, le militarisme, l’oppression de classe… vous retrouvez exactement les thèmes que brandissent les gens qui mettent aujourd’hui le feu à Portland et d’autres villes. Ce sont les post-protestants. Ils se sont juste débarrassés de Dieu! Quand je dis à mes étudiants qu’ils sont les héritiers de leurs grands-parents protestants, ils sont offensés. Mais ils ont exactement la même approche moralisatrice et le même sens exacerbé de leur importance, la même condescendance et le même sentiment de supériorité exaspérante et ridicule, que les protestants exprimaient notamment vis-à-vis des catholiques. (…) Mais ils ne le savent pas. En fait, l’état de l’Amérique a été toujours lié à l’état de la religion protestante. Les catholiques se sont fait une place mais le protestantisme a été le Mississippi qui a arrosé le pays. Et c’est toujours le cas! C’est juste que nous avons maintenant une Église du Christ sans le Christ. Cela veut dire qu’il n’y a pas de pardon possible. Dans la religion chrétienne, le péché originel est l’idée que vous êtes né coupable, que l’humanité hérite d’une tache qui corrompt nos désirs et nos actions. Mais le Christ paie les dettes du péché originel, nous en libérant. Si vous enlevez le Christ du tableau en revanche, vous obtenez… la culpabilité blanche et le racisme systémique. Bien sûr, les jeunes radicaux n’utilisent pas le mot «péché originel». Mais ils utilisent exactement les termes qui s’y appliquent. (…) Ils parlent d’«une tache reçue en héritage» qui «infecte votre esprit». C’est une idée très dangereuse, que les Églises canalisaient autrefois. Mais aujourd’hui que cette idée s’est échappée de l’Église, elle a gagné la rue et vous avez des meutes de post-protestants qui parcourent Washington DC, en s’en prenant à des gens dans des restaurants pour exiger d’eux qu’ils lèvent le poing. Leur conviction que l’Amérique est intrinsèquement corrompue par l’esclavage et n’a réalisé que le Mal, n’est pas enracinée dans des faits que l’on pourrait discuter, elle relève de la croyance religieuse. On exclut ceux qui ne se soumettent pas. On dérive vers une vision apocalyptique du monde qui n’est plus équilibrée par rien d’autre. Cela peut donner la pire forme d’environnementalisme, par exemple, parce que toutes les autres dimensions sont disqualifiées au nom de «la fin du monde». C’est l’idée chrétienne de l’apocalypse, mais dégagée du christianisme. Il y a des douzaines d’exemples de religiosité visibles dans le comportement des protestataires: ils s’allongent par terre face au sol et gémissent, comme des prêtres que l’on consacre dans l’Église catholique. Ils ont organisé une cérémonie à Portland durant laquelle ils ont lavé les pieds de personnes noires pour montrer leur repentir pour la culpabilité blanche. Ils s’agenouillent. Tout cela sans savoir que c’est religieux! C’est religieux parce que l’humanité est religieuse. Il y a une faim spirituelle à l’intérieur de nous, qui se manifeste de différentes manières, y compris la violence! Ces gens veulent un monde qui ait un sens, et ils ne l’ont pas. (…) Le marxisme est une religion par analogie. Certes, il porte cette idée d’une nouvelle naissance. Certaines personnes voulaient des certitudes et ne les trouvant plus dans leurs Églises, ils sont allés vers le marxisme. Mais en Amérique, c’est différent, car tout est centré sur le protestantisme. Dans L’Éthique protestante et l’esprit du capitalisme, Max Weber, avec génie et insolence, prend Marx et le met cul par-dessus tête. Marx avait dit que le protestantisme avait émergé à la faveur de changements économiques. Weber dit l’inverse. Ce n’est pas l’économie qui a transformé la religion, c’est la religion qui a transformé l’économie. Le protestantisme nous a donné le capitalisme, pas l’inverse! Parce que les puritains devaient épargner de l’argent pour assurer leur salut. Le ressort principal n’était pas l’économie mais la faim spirituelle, ce sentiment beaucoup plus profond, selon Weber. Une faim spirituelle a mené les gens vers le marxisme, et c’est la même faim spirituelle qui fait qu’ils sont dans les rues d’Amérique aujourd’hui. (…) Je n’ai pas voté pour Trump. Bien que conservateur, je fais partie des «Never Trumpers». Mais je vois potentiellement une guerre civile à feu doux éclater si Trump gagne cette élection! Car les parties sont polarisées sur le plan spirituel. Si Trump gagne, pour les gens qui sont dans la rue, ce ne sera pas le triomphe des républicains, mais celui du mal. Rauschenbusch, dans son Évangile, dit que nous devons accomplir la rédemption de notre personnalité. Ces gens-là veulent être sûrs d’être de «bonnes personnes». Ils savent qu’ils sont de bonnes personnes s’ils sont opposés au racisme. Ils pensent être de bonnes personnes parce qu’ils sont opposés à la destruction de l’environnement. Ils veulent avoir la bonne «attitude», c’est la raison pour laquelle ceux qui n’ont pas la bonne attitude sont expulsés de leurs universités ou de leur travail pour des raisons dérisoires. Avant, on était exclu de l’Église, aujourd’hui, on est exclu de la vie publique… C’est pour cela que les gens qui soutiennent Trump, sont vus comme des «déplorables», comme disait Hillary Clinton, c’est-à-dire des gens qui ne peuvent être rachetés. Ils ont leur bible et leur fusil et ne suivent pas les commandements de la justice sociale. (…) Avant même que Trump ne surgisse, avec Sarah Palin, et même sous Reagan, on a vu émerger à droite le sentiment que tout ce que faisaient les républicains pour l’Amérique traditionnelle, c’était ralentir sa disparition. Il y avait une immense exaspération car toute cette Amérique avait le sentiment que son mode de vie était fondamentalement menacé par les démocrates. Reagan est arrivé et a dit: «Je vais m’y opposer». Et voilà que Trump arrive et dit à son tour qu’il va dire non à tout ça. Je déteste le fait que Trump occupe cet espace, parce qu’il est vulgaire et insupportable. Mais il est vrai que tous ceux qui s’étaient sentis marginalisés ont voté pour Trump parce qu’il s’est mis en travers de la route. C’est d’ailleurs ce que leur dit Trump: «Ils n’en ont pas après moi, mais après vous.» Il faut comprendre que l’idéologie «woke» de la justice sociale a pénétré les institutions américaines à un point incroyable. Je n’imagine pas qu’un professeur ayant une chaire à la Sorbonne soit forcé d’assister à des classes obligatoires organisées pour le corps professoral sur leur «culpabilité blanche», et enseignées par des gens qui viennent à peine de finir le collège. Mais c’est la réalité des universités américaines. Un sondage récent a montré que la majorité des professeurs d’université ne disent rien. Ils abandonnent plutôt toute mention de tout sujet controversé. Pourtant, des études ont montré que la foule des vigies de Twitter qui obtient la tête des professeurs excommuniés, remplirait à peine la moitié d’un terrain de football universitaire! Il y a un manque de courage. (…) La France a fait beaucoup de choses bonnes et glorieuses pour faire avancer la civilisation, mais elle a fait du mal. Si on croit au projet historique français, on peut démêler le bien du mal. Mais mes étudiants, et tous ces post-protestants dont je vous parle, sont absolument convaincus que tous les gens qui ont précédé, étaient stupides et sans doute maléfiques. Ils ne croient plus au projet historique américain. Ils sont contre les «affinités électives» qui, selon Weber, nous ont donné la modernité: la science, le capitalisme, l’État-nation. Si la théorie de la physique de Newton, Principia, est un manuel de viol, comme l’a dit une universitaire féministe, si sa physique est l’invention d’un moyen de violer le monde, cela veut dire que la science est mauvaise. Si vous êtes soupçonneux de la science, du capitalisme, du protestantisme, si vous rejetez tous les moteurs de la modernité la seule chose qui reste, ce sont les péchés qui nous ont menés là où nous sommes. Pour sûr, nous en avons commis. Mais si on ne voit pas que ça, il n’y a plus d’échappatoire, plus de projet. Ce qui passe aujourd’hui est différent de 1968 en France, quand la remise en cause a finalement été absorbée dans quelque chose de plus large. Le mouvement actuel ne peut être absorbé car il vise à défaire les États-Unis dans ses fondements: l’État-nation, le capitalisme et la religion protestante. Mais comme les États-Unis n’ont pas d’histoire prémoderne, nous ne pouvons absorber un mouvement vraiment antimoderne. (…) Il y a une phrase de Heidegger qui dit que «seulement un Dieu pourrait nous sauver»! On a le sentiment qu’on est aux prémices d’une apocalypse, d’une guerre civile, d’une grande destruction de la modernité. Est-ce à cause de la trahison des clercs? Pour moi, l’incapacité des vieux libéraux à faire rempart contre les jeunes radicaux, est aujourd’hui le grand danger. Quand j’ai vu que de jeunes journalistes du New York Times avaient menacé de partir, parce qu’un responsable éditorial avait publié une tribune d’un sénateur américain qui leur déplaisait, j’ai été stupéfait. Je suis assez vieux pour savoir que dans le passé, la direction aurait immédiatement dit à ces jeunes journalistes de prendre la porte s’ils n’étaient pas contents. Mais ce qui s’est passé, c’est que le rédacteur en chef a été limogé. Joseph Bottum

C’est ce qui reste du christianisme quand on a tout oublié, imbécile !

Racisme d’état, racisé, cisgenre/cishet, blantriarcat, privilège blanc, appropriation culturelle, larmes blanches, larmes males, biais de confirmation, woke…

A l’heure où après des mois d’émeutes et de casse et l’inévitable retour de bâton et remontée de leur Trump honni dans les sondages …

Les nouveaux protestants de Black lives matter en sont, signe des temps, à effacer leur profession de foi sur leur site …

Mais où leur vocabulaire semble en train d’entrer dans la langue courante …

Tandis que, de la part des médias dits sérieux, tout est bon pour discréditer le catholicisme de la candidate du président Tump pour remplacer une juge de la Cour suprême récemment décédée …

Comment ne pas voir …

Avec le spécialiste du phénomène religieux en politique et girardien Joseph Bottum

Entre iconoclasme, génuflexions, auto-flagellations, lavements des pieds, liturgie, procession, croisades, inquisition, textes sacrés, tabous, catéchisme, dogmatisme, moralisme, excommunications, saints, martyrs…

La dimension proprement religieuse de, pour reprendre le mot attribué à Bebel pour l’antisémitisme en ces temps de décérébration universitaire, cette sorte de « christianisme des imbéciles » …

Suite au fait sociologique central mais sous-estimé des 50 dernières années …

De l’effondrement, à partir du milieu des années 1960, du modèle et socle commun fait de mariages, baptêmes, funérailles, familles et politique, que leur avaient légué les églises protestantes américaines …

Et son remplacement, à partir du mouvement de l’Évangile social d’un Walter Rauschenbusch, par une sorte de version sécularisée que n’ont que compensé partiellement les églises évangéliques et catholique…

Avec ses péchés sociaux à rejeter pour accéder à la rédemption que seraient l’intolérance, le pouvoir, le militarisme, l’oppression de classe…

Sauf que derrière ce « Mississippi protestant qui avait arrosé le pays’, c’est en fait de Dieu qu’ils se sont  débarrassés …

Via la sanctification de l’ultime victime du péché originel de l’esclavage, à savoir les noirs …

D’où leur reprise – ô combien transparente et significative – du terme d’argot noir « woke » …

Pour apporter à l’Amérique et au monde une sorte de quatrième Grand Réveil comme l’Amérique les multiplie depuis le milieu du 19e siècle …

Sauf que derrière cette nouvelle église du Christ sans le Christ, il n’y a plus de pardon possible …

Que l’indécrottable péché originel, derrière l’impardonnable privilège blanc, de la culpabilité blanche et du racisme systémique…

Et in fine, libérée du cadre des églises qui avaient autrefois canalisé cette sainte colère, que l’escalade, proprement mimétique, de la course à la pureté idéologique que l’on voit actuellment dans leurs rues et déjà en partie dans les nôtres …

Autrement dit, jusqu’à ce que pourrait peut-être y mettre fin la réaction de la majorité silencieuse que comme nombre de Never-Trumpers, Bottum se refuse à voir derrière la vulgarité d’un Trump …

La démolition pure et simple, entrevue déjà par Malraux comme Girard, de l’essentiel de la culture et du projet non seulement américain mais occidental …

Et donc l’ouverture, derrière cette remise en cause de toutes valeurs partagées et but commun, à la guerre civile  ?

« La passion religieuse a échappé au protestantisme et met le feu à la politique »

GRAND ENTRETIEN – Professeur à l’université du Dakota du Sud, Joseph Bottum est essayiste et spécialiste du phénomène religieux en politique. Il offre un éclairage saisissant sur les élections américaines, dont il craint qu’elles ne dégénèrent en guerre civile si Trump est réélu.
Laure Mandeville
Le Figaro
24 septembre 2020

Dans son livre An Anxious Rage, the Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, écrit il y a six ans, il explique qu’on ne peut comprendre la fureur idéologique qui s’est emparée de l’Amérique, si on ne s’intéresse pas à la centralité du fait religieux et à l’effondrement du protestantisme, «ce Mississippi» qui a arrosé et façonné si longtemps la culture américaine et ses mœurs.

Bottum décrit la marque laissée par le protestantisme à travers l’émergence de ce qu’il appelle les «post-protestants», ces nouveaux puritains sans Dieu qui pratiquent la religion de la culture «woke» et de la justice sociale, et rejettent le projet américain dans son intégralité. Il voit à l’œuvre une entreprise de «destruction de la modernité» sur laquelle sont fondés les États-Unis.

LE FIGARO. – Dans votre livre An Anxious Age, vous revenez sur l’importance fondamentale du protestantisme pour comprendre les États-Unis et vous expliquez que son effondrement a été le fait sociologique central, mais sous-estimé, des 50 dernières années. Vous dites que ce déclin a débouché sur l’émergence d’un post-protestantisme qui est un nouveau puritanisme sans Dieu, qui explique la rage quasi-religieuse qui s’exprime dans les rues du pays. De quoi s’agit-il?

Joseph BOTTUM. –Quand j’ai écrit mon livre, je suis retourné à Max Weber et à Alexis de Tocqueville, car tous deux avaient identifié l’importance fondamentale de l’anxiété spirituelle que nous éprouvons tous. Il me semble qu’à la fin du XXe siècle et au début du XXIe siècle, nous avons oublié la centralité de cette anxiété, de ces démons ou anges spirituels qui nous habitent. Ils nous gouvernent de manière profondément dangereuse. Norman Mailer a dit un jour que toute la sociologie américaine avait été un effort désespéré pour essayer de dire quelque chose sur l’Amérique que Tocqueville n’avait pas dit! C’est vrai! Tocqueville avait saisi l’importance du fait religieux et de la panoplie des Églises protestantes qui ont défini la nation américaine. Il a montré que malgré leur nombre innombrable et leurs querelles, elles étaient parvenues à s’unir pour être ce qu’il appelait joliment «le courant central des manières et de la morale». Quelles que soient les empoignades entre anglicans épiscopaliens et congrégationalistes, entre congrégationalistes et presbytériens, entre presbytériens et baptistes, les protestants se sont combinés pour donner une forme à nos vies: celle des mariages, des baptêmes et des funérailles ; des familles, et même de la politique, en cela même que le protestantisme ne cesse d’affirmer qu’il y a quelque chose de plus important que la politique. Ce modèle a perduré jusqu’au milieu des années 1960.

Qu’est-ce qui a précipité le déclin du protestantisme? La libération des mœurs des années 1960, l’émergence de la théologie de la justice sociale?

Pour moi, c’est avant tout le mouvement de l’Évangile social qui a gagné les Églises protestantes, qui est à la racine de l’effondrement. Dans mon livre, je consacre deux chapitres à Walter Rauschenbusch, la figure clé. Mais il faut comprendre que le déclin des Églises européennes a aussi joué. L’une des sources d’autorité des Églises américaines venait de l’influence de théologiens européens éminents comme Wolfhart Pannenberg ou l’ancien premier ministre néerlandais Abraham Kuyper, esprit d’une grande profondeur qui venait souvent à Princeton donner des conférences devant des milliers de participants! Mais ils n’ont pas été remplacés. Le résultat de tout cela, c’est que l’Église protestante américaine a connu un déclin catastrophique. En 1965, 50 % des Américains appartenaient à l’une des 8 Églises protestantes dominantes. Aujourd’hui, ce chiffre s’établit à 4 %! Cet effondrement est le changement sociologique le plus fondamental des 50 dernières années, mais personne n’en parle.

Une partie de ces protestants ont migré vers les Églises chrétiennes évangéliques, qui dans les années 1970, sous Jimmy Carter, ont émergé comme force politique. On a vu également un nombre surprenant de conversions au catholicisme, surtout chez les intellectuels. Mais la majorité sont devenus ce que j’appelle dans mon livre des «post-protestants», ce qui nous amène au décryptage des événements d’aujourd’hui. Ces post-protestants se sont approprié une série de thèmes empruntés à l’Évangile social de Walter Rauschenbusch. Quand vous reprenez les péchés sociaux qu’il faut selon lui rejeter pour accéder à une forme de rédemption – l’intolérance, le pouvoir, le militarisme, l’oppression de classe… vous retrouvez exactement les thèmes que brandissent les gens qui mettent aujourd’hui le feu à Portland et d’autres villes. Ce sont les post-protestants. Ils se sont juste débarrassés de Dieu! Quand je dis à mes étudiants qu’ils sont les héritiers de leurs grands-parents protestants, ils sont offensés. Mais ils ont exactement la même approche moralisatrice et le même sens exacerbé de leur importance, la même condescendance et le même sentiment de supériorité exaspérante et ridicule, que les protestants exprimaient notamment vis-à-vis des catholiques.

La génération «woke» est une nouvelle version du puritanisme?

Absolument! Mais ils ne le savent pas. En fait, l’état de l’Amérique a été toujours lié à l’état de la religion protestante. Les catholiques se sont fait une place mais le protestantisme a été le Mississippi qui a arrosé le pays. Et c’est toujours le cas! C’est juste que nous avons maintenant une Église du Christ sans le Christ. Cela veut dire qu’il n’y a pas de pardon possible. Dans la religion chrétienne, le péché originel est l’idée que vous êtes né coupable, que l’humanité hérite d’une tache qui corrompt nos désirs et nos actions. Mais le Christ paie les dettes du péché originel, nous en libérant. Si vous enlevez le Christ du tableau en revanche, vous obtenez… la culpabilité blanche et le racisme systémique. Bien sûr, les jeunes radicaux n’utilisent pas le mot «péché originel». Mais ils utilisent exactement les termes qui s’y appliquent.

Ils parlent d’«une tache reçue en héritage» qui «infecte votre esprit». C’est une idée très dangereuse, que les Églises canalisaient autrefois. Mais aujourd’hui que cette idée s’est échappée de l’Église, elle a gagné la rue et vous avez des meutes de post-protestants qui parcourent Washington DC, en s’en prenant à des gens dans des restaurants pour exiger d’eux qu’ils lèvent le poing. Leur conviction que l’Amérique est intrinsèquement corrompue par l’esclavage et n’a réalisé que le Mal, n’est pas enracinée dans des faits que l’on pourrait discuter, elle relève de la croyance religieuse. On exclut ceux qui ne se soumettent pas. On dérive vers une vision apocalyptique du monde qui n’est plus équilibrée par rien d’autre. Cela peut donner la pire forme d’environnementalisme, par exemple, parce que toutes les autres dimensions sont disqualifiées au nom de «la fin du monde».

C’est l’idée chrétienne de l’apocalypse, mais dégagée du christianisme. Il y a des douzaines d’exemples de religiosité visibles dans le comportement des protestataires: ils s’allongent par terre face au sol et gémissent, comme des prêtres que l’on consacre dans l’Église catholique. Ils ont organisé une cérémonie à Portland durant laquelle ils ont lavé les pieds de personnes noires pour montrer leur repentir pour la culpabilité blanche. Ils s’agenouillent. Tout cela sans savoir que c’est religieux! C’est religieux parce que l’humanité est religieuse. Il y a une faim spirituelle à l’intérieur de nous, qui se manifeste de différentes manières, y compris la violence! Ces gens veulent un monde qui ait un sens, et ils ne l’ont pas.

Les post-protestants peuvent-ils être comparés aux nihilistes russes qui cherchaient aussi un sens dans la lutte révolutionnaire et le marxisme?

Oui et non. Le marxisme est une religion par analogie. Certes, il porte cette idée d’une nouvelle naissance. Certaines personnes voulaient des certitudes et ne les trouvant plus dans leurs Églises, ils sont allés vers le marxisme. Mais en Amérique, c’est différent, car tout est centré sur le protestantisme. Dans L’Éthique protestante et l’esprit du capitalisme, Max Weber, avec génie et insolence, prend Marx et le met cul par-dessus tête. Marx avait dit que le protestantisme avait émergé à la faveur de changements économiques. Weber dit l’inverse. Ce n’est pas l’économie qui a transformé la religion, c’est la religion qui a transformé l’économie. Le protestantisme nous a donné le capitalisme, pas l’inverse! Parce que les puritains devaient épargner de l’argent pour assurer leur salut. Le ressort principal n’était pas l’économie mais la faim spirituelle, ce sentiment beaucoup plus profond, selon Weber. Une faim spirituelle a mené les gens vers le marxisme, et c’est la même faim spirituelle qui fait qu’ils sont dans les rues d’Amérique aujourd’hui.

Une faim spirituelle a mené les gens vers le marxisme, et c’est la même faim spirituelle qui fait qu’ils sont dans les rues d’Amérique aujourd’hui.

Trump se présente comme le protecteur du projet américain, ses adversaires le diabolisent… Comment jugez-vous la tournure religieuse prise par la campagne?

Je n’ai pas voté pour Trump. Bien que conservateur, je fais partie des «Never Trumpers». Mais je vois potentiellement une guerre civile à feu doux éclater si Trump gagne cette élection! Car les parties sont polarisées sur le plan spirituel. Si Trump gagne, pour les gens qui sont dans la rue, ce ne sera pas le triomphe des républicains, mais celui du mal. Rauschenbusch, dans son Évangile, dit que nous devons accomplir la rédemption de notre personnalité. Ces gens-là veulent être sûrs d’être de «bonnes personnes». Ils savent qu’ils sont de bonnes personnes s’ils sont opposés au racisme. Ils pensent être de bonnes personnes parce qu’ils sont opposés à la destruction de l’environnement. Ils veulent avoir la bonne «attitude», c’est la raison pour laquelle ceux qui n’ont pas la bonne attitude sont expulsés de leurs universités ou de leur travail pour des raisons dérisoires. Avant, on était exclu de l’Église, aujourd’hui, on est exclu de la vie publique… C’est pour cela que les gens qui soutiennent Trump, sont vus comme des «déplorables», comme disait Hillary Clinton, c’est-à-dire des gens qui ne peuvent être rachetés. Ils ont leur bible et leur fusil et ne suivent pas les commandements de la justice sociale.

Trump a-t-il gagné en 2016 parce qu’il s’est dressé contre ce nouveau catéchisme?

Avant même que Trump ne surgisse, avec Sarah Palin, et même sous Reagan, on a vu émerger à droite le sentiment que tout ce que faisaient les républicains pour l’Amérique traditionnelle, c’était ralentir sa disparition. Il y avait une immense exaspération car toute cette Amérique avait le sentiment que son mode de vie était fondamentalement menacé par les démocrates. Reagan est arrivé et a dit: «Je vais m’y opposer». Et voilà que Trump arrive et dit à son tour qu’il va dire non à tout ça. Je déteste le fait que Trump occupe cet espace, parce qu’il est vulgaire et insupportable. Mais il est vrai que tous ceux qui s’étaient sentis marginalisés ont voté pour Trump parce qu’il s’est mis en travers de la route. C’est d’ailleurs ce que leur dit Trump: «Ils n’en ont pas après moi, mais après vous.» Il faut comprendre que l’idéologie «woke» de la justice sociale a pénétré les institutions américaines à un point incroyable. Je n’imagine pas qu’un professeur ayant une chaire à la Sorbonne soit forcé d’assister à des classes obligatoires organisées pour le corps professoral sur leur «culpabilité blanche», et enseignées par des gens qui viennent à peine de finir le collège. Mais c’est la réalité des universités américaines.

Un sondage récent a montré que la majorité des professeurs d’université ne disent rien. Ils abandonnent plutôt toute mention de tout sujet controversé. Pourtant, des études ont montré que la foule des vigies de Twitter qui obtient la tête des professeurs excommuniés, remplirait à peine la moitié d’un terrain de football universitaire! Il y a un manque de courage.

Vous dites qu’à cause de la disparition des Églises, il n’y a plus de valeurs partagées et donc plus de but commun. Cela explique-t-il la remise en cause du projet américain lui-même?

La France a fait beaucoup de choses bonnes et glorieuses pour faire avancer la civilisation, mais elle a fait du mal. Si on croit au projet historique français, on peut démêler le bien du mal. Mais mes étudiants, et tous ces post-protestants dont je vous parle, sont absolument convaincus que tous les gens qui ont précédé, étaient stupides et sans doute maléfiques. Ils ne croient plus au projet historique américain. Ils sont contre les «affinités électives» qui, selon Weber, nous ont donné la modernité: la science, le capitalisme, l’État-nation. Si la théorie de la physique de Newton, Principia, est un manuel de viol, comme l’a dit une universitaire féministe, si sa physique est l’invention d’un moyen de violer le monde, cela veut dire que la science est mauvaise. Si vous êtes soupçonneux de la science, du capitalisme, du protestantisme, si vous rejetez tous les moteurs de la modernité la seule chose qui reste, ce sont les péchés qui nous ont menés là où nous sommes. Pour sûr, nous en avons commis. Mais si on ne voit pas que ça, il n’y a plus d’échappatoire, plus de projet. Ce qui passe aujourd’hui est différent de 1968 en France, quand la remise en cause a finalement été absorbée dans quelque chose de plus large. Le mouvement actuel ne peut être absorbé car il vise à défaire les États-Unis dans ses fondements: l’État-nation, le capitalisme et la religion protestante. Mais comme les États-Unis n’ont pas d’histoire prémoderne, nous ne pouvons absorber un mouvement vraiment antimoderne.

Comment sort-on de cette impasse?

Je n’en sais rien. Il y a une phrase de Heidegger qui dit que «seulement un Dieu pourrait nous sauver»! On a le sentiment qu’on est aux prémices d’une apocalypse, d’une guerre civile, d’une grande destruction de la modernité. Est-ce à cause de la trahison des clercs? Pour moi, l’incapacité des vieux libéraux à faire rempart contre les jeunes radicaux, est aujourd’hui le grand danger. Quand j’ai vu que de jeunes journalistes du New York Times avaient menacé de partir, parce qu’un responsable éditorial avait publié une tribune d’un sénateur américain qui leur déplaisait, j’ai été stupéfait. Je suis assez vieux pour savoir que dans le passé, la direction aurait immédiatement dit à ces jeunes journalistes de prendre la porte s’ils n’étaient pas contents. Mais ce qui s’est passé, c’est que le rédacteur en chef a été limogé.

Voir aussi:

America amid Spiritual Anxiety: A Conversation with Joseph Bottum
Mark Tooley & Joseph Bottum
Providence
June 19, 2020

Here’s my interview with Jody Bottum, author of An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, who applies his insights about post-Protestant America to contemporary protests.

Bottum theorizes that Mainline Protestantism’s collapse left a spiritual vacuum in American culture that loosed myriad social demons. Post-Protestantism wants to wage war on social sins, but not personal sins. It identifies redemption with having politically correct opinions. And it finds sanctification in denouncing others who lack its spiritual and political insights.

Of course, the post-Protestant theory of salvation is not satisfying, which leads to despair and deconstruction. From its perspective, absent Providence and eschatology, there is no destination, which potentially leads to destruction and nihilism. Bottum warns that a society without a shared culture cannot measure progress or purpose and no longer believes in itself, causing it to see its history as a long list of crimes.

Bottum published his book six years ago, yet its message is so timely today.


Rough Transcript of the Conversation:

TOOLEY: Hello, this is Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy here in Washington, DC, and also editor of Providence, a journal of Christianity and American foreign policy. Today I have the great pleasure of conversing with Jody Bottum, whose important book, of, I believe six years ago, called An Anxious Age, has a great application to contemporary events in terms of where America is spiritually and how we’re responding to today’s protests. So, I’m going to ask Jody to expound on that topic. But it’s a great pleasure to talk with you again, Jody.

BOTTUM: Thanks for having me, Mark.

TOOLEY: Well as I mentioned, your book An Anxious Age—and I need to recall the full title of it, it was An Anxious Age: The Post Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of America, quite a mouthful and a mindful. But you address the post-Protestant culture that has become paramount in American culture which continues the habits of the old wasp elite without the core theology of course. And it seems to pertain to contemporary events, among other reasons, and that these post Protestant elites want to contend against sinful forces which in their mind are almost amorphous and impersonal. And certainly, institutional and systemic racism would have ranked among them. They went to atone for this sense of guilt, but they really have no definition of atonement, so they seem to be trapped in a cycle without any conclusion. Do you think I’m understanding your thesis correctly?

BOTTUM: Yeah… now the direction I took that was not theological, but sociological and political. Because it struck me at the time that I wrote the first essay of what would become the book, which was a political theory of the Protestant mainline. And I meant the words political theory quite deliberately—that I wasn’t going to take up the question of a Christian metaphysics and who has a better account of it, whether Protestants or Catholics. I wasn’t going to do that. I was simply going to take up the fact that America was in essence a Protestant nation from its founding, from the arrival of the Puritans—and well, it’s a little more sophisticated than that, really from William and Mary on this was a Protestant country—and that we needed to sort of describe what Tocqueville called the main current of that. Now mainline is a word from much later, from the 1930s, but there always was a kind of main current of a general Protestantism. And I wanted to look at its political consequences and cultural consequences.

However much the rival Protestant denominations feuded with one another, disagreed with one another, I thought they gave a tone to the nation. And one of the things that they did particularly from the Civil War on was constrain social and political demons. They corralled them. They gave a shape to America, which was the marriage culture, the shape of funerals, life and death, birth, the family. They gave a shape to the cultural and sociological condition of America. And it struck me at the time, so I followed up that essay on the death of Protestant America with a whole book. And then subsequently applying it to the political situation that I saw emerging then in a big cover story for The Weekly Standard, called “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas.”

And in that kind of threefold push, I thought, “No one that I know is taking seriously the massive sociological change, perhaps the biggest in American history.” From 1965 when the Protestant churches, the mainline churches, by which I mean the founding churches in the National Council of Churches and the God box up on Riverside Drive—those churches, and their affiliated black churches, constituted or had membership that was just over fifty percent of America, as late as 1965. Today that number is well under 10 percent and that’s a huge sociological change that nobody to me seems to be paying sufficient attention to.

Now of course for someone like you, Mark, this is old news. You’ve been following this story for decades. But in kind of mainstream sociological discussions of America that just was not appearing as anything significant, and I thought it was profoundly significant and that the attempt of some of our neoconservative Catholic friends—and I was in the belly of that beast in those days—to substitute Catholicism for the failed American cultural pillar of the mainline Protestant churches—that that project, interesting as it was, failed, and that consequently, I predicted, we were going to see ever-larger sociological and cultural and political upset. Because there was no turning these demons of the human condition into an understanding of their personal application. Instead they just became cultural.

And I trace this move, perhaps unfairly, but I traced it to Rauschenbusch. And said when you say that it’s not individual sin, it’s social sin. And he lists six of them and they are exactly what the protestors are out in the street against right now. It’s what he called bigotry, which we used the word racism for, its militarism, its authoritarianism, and he names these six social sins and they are exactly the ones that the protesters are out against.

But I said the trouble with Rauschenbusch, who was a believer—I think he was a serious Christian and profoundly biblically educated so that his speech was just ripe with biblical quotations—the problem with him is the subsequent generations don’t need the church anymore. They don’t need Jesus anymore. He thinks of Jesus—in the metaphor I use—for the social gospel movement as it developed into just the social movement. Christ is the ladder by which we climb to the new ledge of understanding, but once we’re on that ledge, we don’t need the ladder anymore.

The logic of it is quite clear. We’ve reached this new height of moral and ethical understanding. Yes, thank you, Jesus Christ and the revelations taught it to us, but we’re there now. What need have we for a personal relationship with Jesus, what we need have we for a church? Having achieved this sentiment that knows that sin is these social constructs of destructiveness and our anxiety, the spiritual anxiety that human beings always feel, just by being human, is here answered. How do you know that you are saved today? You know that you are saved because you have the right attitude toward social sins. That’s how you know. Now they wouldn’t say saved; they would say, “How do you know you’re a good person?” But that’s just the logic. The logical pattern is the same.

And I develop that in the essay, “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas” by analyzing as tightly as I could the way in which white guilt is original sin. It’s original sin divorced from the theology that let it make sense. But the pattern of internal logic is exactly the same. It produces the same need to find salvation. It produces the same need to know that you are good by knowing that you are bad. It produces the same logic by which Paul would say, “Before the law there was no sin.” It has all of the same patterns of reason, except as you pointed out in your introduction, there’s no atonement. It’s as though, Mark, we’re living in St. Augustine’s metaphysics, but with all the Christ stuff stripped out. It’s a dark world; it’s a grim world. We’re inherently guilty and there’s no salvation. There’s no escape from it.

Except for the destruction of all. Which is why I then moved in that essay to talk about shunning in its modern forms, again divorced from the structures that once made it make sense, and apocalypse. The sense that we’re living at the end of the world and things are so terrible and so destructive that all the ordinary niceties of manners, of balancing judgment and so on, those are—if someone says, “We are destroying the planet and we’re all going to die unless you do what I want,” if I say, “Well we need to hear other voices,” they say, “That’s complicity with evil.” Right? The end of the world is coming; this is this apocalyptic imagination.

Now all of that I think was once upon a time in America—and I’m speaking only politically and sociologically—all of that was corralled, or much of it was corralled in the churches. You were taught a frame to understand your dissatisfactions with the world. You were taught a frame to understand the horror, the metaphysical horror that is the fact, Mark, that you and I are going to die. You were taught this frame that made it bearable and made it possible to move somewhere with it. With the breaking of that, these demons are let loose and now they’re out there.

I’ve often said, Mark, that the history of America since World War II is a history of a fourth Great Awakening that never quite happened. In a sense what I’ve seen for some years building and is now taking to the streets once again is the fourth Great Awakening except without the Christianity. I see in other words what’s happening out there as spiritual anxiety. But spiritual anxiety occurring in a world in which these people have no answer. They just have outrage. And it’s an escalating outrage.

This is where the single most influential thinker in my thought—a modern thinker—is Rene Girard, and Rene Girard’s idea of the escalation of memetic rivalry. The ways in which we get ever purer and we seek ever more tiny examples of evil that we can scapegoat and we enter into competition, this rivalry, to see who is more pure. This is exactly the motor, the Girardian motor, on which my idea of the spiritual anxiety runs.

And so, statues of George Washington are coming down now. And once upon a time, in the generation that I grew up in, and the generation that you grew up in, George Washington was—there were things bad things to say about him—but this was tantamount to saying America was a mistake. And of course these people think America was a mistake, because they think the whole history of the world is a mistake. There’s this outrage. And the outrage I think is spiritual. And that’s why it doesn’t get answered when voices of calm reason say, “Well let’s consider all sides. Yes, there were mistakes that were made and evils that were done, but let’s try to fix them.” Spiritual anxiety doesn’t get answered by, “Oh well let’s fix something.” It gets answered by the flame. It gets answered by the looting. It gets answered by the tearing down.

TOOLEY: So, it’s not just America that’s the mistake or Western civilization, its creation itself that’s the mistake.

BOTTUM: I think so. But creation appears to us in concrete guises, and the concrete guise right now is America. So, this is why you’ll get praise of ancient civilizations. Or you get the historical insanity of a US senator standing up on the well of the Senate and saying America invented slavery, that there was no slavery before the United States. That’s historically insane, but it’s not unlearned because we’ve passed beyond ignorance here. There’s something willful about it. And that’s what’s extraordinary, I think.

And yeah, I’m glad you look back to my 10-year-old book now because I think I did predict some of this, although obviously not in its particulars. But there was a warning there that the collapse of the mainline Protestant churches was going to introduce a demonic element into American life. And lo and behold, it has.

TOOLEY: Now it’s interesting what you described—the collapse in the mainline churches and the social consequences—the inability of Catholicism or evangelicals to fill that social and cultural vacuum and the inability of evangelicals and Catholics, seemingly, to diagnose our current crisis in the way that you just described. Why is that do you think?

BOTTUM: Well there are multiple questions there, Mark. Why Catholicism failed, why the evangelicals and Catholics together failed. So Catholicism by itself failed. The evangelicals and Catholics together project failed to provide this moral pillar to American discourse. And then there are a variety of reasons for that, beginning with the fact that Catholicism is an alien religion, alien to America. Jews and Catholics were more or less welcome to live here, but we understood that we lived on the banks of a great Mississippi of Protestantism that poured down the center of this country.

But the question of why it failed is one thing. The question of why the mainline Protestant churches failed is yet another part of your question. And although I list several examples that people have offered, I don’t make a decision about that in part because I am a Catholic. I have a suspicion that Protestantism with a higher sense of personal salvation, but a less thick metaphysics, was more susceptible to the line of the social gospel movement. But I don’t know that for certain so in the book I’m merely presenting these possibilities.

And then evangelicalism, Catholicism, was under attack for wounds, some of which it committed itself. Evangelicalism is in decline in America. The statistics show that this period when it seemed to be going from strength to strength may have been fueled most of all by the death of the mainline churches. They were just picking up those members. Instead of going to the Methodist Church, they were going to the Bible church out on the prairie.

But regardless, that Christian discourse, that slightly secularized Christian discourse, that would allow Abraham Lincoln to make his speeches, that would provide the background to political rhetoric and so on, that’s all gone. And as a consequence, it seems to me we don’t have a shared culture and that’s part of what allows these protests. But also I think, if there’s a way to put this, a culture that no longer believes in itself, that no longer has horizons, and targets, and goals, that no longer has even the vaguest sense of a telos towards which we ought to move, a culture like that, if we look at it, we no longer have a measure of progress. We can’t say what an advance is along the way. All we can do is look at our history and see it as a catalog of crimes that we perpetrated in order to reach this point that we’re at. And we can’t see the good that came out of it. Because we don’t know what the good is, we don’t know what the telos is, the target, so we have no measure for that.

So, we can’t celebrate the Civil War victory that ended slavery. All we can do is condemn slavery. We can’t celebrate the victory over the Nazis. We have to end World War II; all we can do is decry militarism and the crimes we committed to win that war, like the firebombing of Dresden, or the Hiroshima.

And I think that that reasoning is quite exact because the young people that I hear speak—now I haven’t spent as much time on this as I perhaps should have, following the ins and outs of every protestor alive today—but what I’ve heard suggests that they condemn America to the core—the whole of America, of American history. There is nothing good about this nation. And there it seems to me the reasoning is quite exact. Unable to see a point to America, unable to see a goal. They are quite right that all they can see are the crimes. Whereas you and I are capable of saying, yes slavery was a great sin, and we got over it, and then the post-reconstruction settlement of Jim Crow was a great sin, but we got over it, and we still are committing sins to this day but the optimism of America is that we’ll get over it, we will find solutions to these because we feel that we are a city on a hill. We feel that we are heading somewhere. The telos may be vague, maybe inchoate, but its pull is real for people like you and me, Mark. These young people—who, I think partly because they’ve been systematically miss-educated—don’t have any feeling for that at all. And because they don’t, I think they are actually being quite rational in saying America is just evil, it’s a history of sin.

TOOLEY: So these protests seem to lack any sense of redemption, personal or social, and no sense of providence, there is no historical destination for them. You and I do believe in redemption and in providence, so in conclusion, what words of hope would you have in terms of surviving and coming out of the present moment?

BOTTUM: I think it’ll pass. These things pass. There are various rages that take to the streets, but they are to some degree victims of their own energy. They burn out, and I think this one will burn out. The thing that we are not seeing now—in fact we’re seeing the opposite—is someone standing up to them. The New York Times firing of its op-ed page editor over publication of an op-ed from a sitting US senator is really quite extraordinary if we think about it. But I don’t believe institutions can survive if they pander in this way. And I think eventually we’ll get one standing up. I haven’t heard yet from the publisher of J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, who the staff of her publishing house has declared themselves unwilling to work at a publisher that would publish a woman with such reprobate views of transgenderism. If the publisher doesn’t stand up to her, I think we may be in for another year of this. But I have a feeling she sells so well, that I don’t believe the publisher is going to give in. And if we have one person saying “That’s interesting, but if you can’t work here, you can’t work here, goodbye.” The first time we see that and they survived the subsequent Twitter outrage, I think we’ll see an end to the current cancel culture, which is of course the most insidious of the general social—the burning and the breaking of statues is physical, but the most destructive cultural thing right now is the cancel culture that gets people fired and their relatives fired and the rest of it. I think that has to end and I imagine it will, the first time somebody stands up to them and survives.

TOOLEY: Jody Bottum, author and commentator, thank you for a fascinating conversation about our current anxious age.

BOTTUM: Thanks Mark.

Voir également:
Dec. 2, 2014

I recently read Joseph Bottum’s marvelous book, “An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America.” This is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in some time.

Bottum will be familiar to many readers through his many essays in the Weekly Standard and elsewhere (this one is one of my favorites, which anticipates some of the ideas in this book) and his term at the helm of First Things. In fact, the prototype for “An Anxious Age” was a First Things cover story that Bottum wrote in 2008, “The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline.” That article made a large impression on me when it first came out, and I was happy to learn that Bottum was planning to develop those ideas into a book.

“An Anxious Age” is probably best described as a work of religious sociology — both how society impacts religious practice (and how religious views evolve over time) as well as how religious views impact society. But it is written as an extended essay, not a data-focused academic tome, as is, for example, Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart,” to which the themes of “An Anxious Age” bear a good deal of resemblance.

The book is actually two relatively distinct essays, which bear a somewhat loose but useful connection. Part I of the book deals with the formal decline of the Protestant mainline churches as the moral center of American society, but also the continued rump effect those churches have on American society’s subconscious (if society can have a subconscious). Part II of the book addresses what Bottum characterizes as an effort — ultimately unsuccessful — by Catholics and evangelicals beginning in the mid-2000s to form a sort of alliance to try to create a new moral code and religious institutional ballast to fill the void left in American society by the decline of the Protestant mainline churches that he describes in the first part of the book. What I found most interesting and provocative is Bottum’s thesis that although it seems that the moral core of modern American society has been entirely secularized, and religion and religious institutions play little role in shaping those views, in fact the watered-down gruel of moral views served up by elite establishment opinion (recycling, multiculturalism, and the like) is a remnant of the old collection of Protestant mainline views that dominated American society for decades or even centuries.

To highlight the important sociological importance of religion in American society, Bottum uses the now-familiar metaphor of a three-legged stool in describing American society (one that I and others have used as well): a balance between constitutional democracy, free market capitalism, and a strong and vibrant web of civil society institutions where moral lessons are taught and social capital is built. In the United States, the most important civil society organizations traditionally have been family and churches. And, among the churches, by far the most important were those that Bottum deems as the “Protestant Mainline” — Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist (Northern), Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist/United Church of Christ, etc.

The data on changing membership in these churches is jaw-dropping. In 1965, for example, over half of the United States population claimed membership in one of the Protestant mainline churches. Today, by contrast, less than 10 percent of the population belongs to one of these churches. Moreover, those numbers are likely to continue to decline — the Protestant Mainline (“PM”) churches also sport the highest average age of any church group.

Why does the suicide of the Protestant Mainline matter? Because for Bottum, these churches are what provided the sturdy third leg to balance politics and markets in making a good society. Indeed, Bottum sees the PM churches as the heart of American Exceptionalism — they provided the moral code of Americanism. Probity, responsibility, honesty, integrity — all the moral virtues that provided the bedrock of American society and also constrained the hydraulic and leveling tendencies of the state and market to devour spheres of private life.

The collapse of this religious-moral consensus has been most pronounced among American elites, who have turned largely indifferent to formal religious belief. And in some leftist elite circles it has turned to outright hostility toward religion — Bottum reminds us of Barack Obama’s observation that rural Americans today cling to their “guns and Bibles” out of bitterness about changes in the world. Perhaps most striking is that anti-Catholic bigotry today is almost exclusively found on “the political Left, as it members rage about insidious Roman influence on the nation: the Catholic justices on the Supreme Court plotting to undo the abortion license, and the Catholic racists of the old rust belt states turning their backs on Obama to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Why is it no surprise that one of the last places in American Christianity to find good, old-fashioned anti-Catholicism is among the administrators of the dying Mainline…. They must be anti-Catholics precisely to the extent that they are also political leftists.” As the recent squabbles over compelling practicing Catholics to toe the new cultural line on same-sex marriage at the risk of losing their jobs or businesses, the political Left today is increasingly intolerant of recognizing a private sphere of belief outside of the crushing hand of political orthodoxy.

Yet as Bottum notes, the traditional elite consensus has been replaced by a new spiritual orthodoxy of “morality.” The American elite (however defined) today does subscribe to a set of orthodoxies of what constitutes “proper” behavior: proper views on the environment, feminism, gay rights, etc. Thus, Bottum provocatively argues, the PM hasn’t gone away, it has simply evolved into a new form, a religion without God as it were, in which the Sierra club, universities, and Democratic Party have supplanted the Methodists and Presbyterians as the teachers of proper values.

How did this occur? I am Catholic, so this part of the story was one of the elements of the book that struck me as particularly interesting, as much of the history was new to me. Bottum points to the key moment as the emergence of the Social Gospel movement in the early 20th Century. Led by Walter Rauschenbusch, the Social Gospel movement reached beyond the traditional view that Christianity spoke to personal failings such as sin, but instead reached “the social sin of all mankind, to which all who ever lived have contributed, and under which all who ever lived have suffered.” As Bottum summarizes it, Rauschenbusch identified six social sins: “bigotry, the arrogance of power, the corruption of justice for personal ends, the madness [and groupthink] of the mob, militarism, and class contempt.” As religious belief moved from the pulpit and pew to the voting booth and activism, the role of Jesus and any religious belief became increasingly attenuated. And eventually, Bottum suggests, the political agenda itself came to overwhelm the increasingly irrelevant religious beliefs that initially supported it. Indeed, to again consider contemporary debates, what matters most is outward conformity to orthodox opinion, not persuasion and inward acceptance of a set of particular views–as best illustrated by the lynch mobs that attacked Brendan Eich for his political donations (his outward behavior) and to compel conformity of behavior among wedding cake bakers and the like, all of which bears little relation to (and in fact is likely counterproductive) to changing personal belief. (Of course, that too is an unstable equilibrium–in the future it won’t be sufficient to not merely not be politically opposed to same-sex marriage, it will be a litmus test to be affirmatively in favor of it.).

Thus, while the modern elite appears to be largely non-religious, Bottum argues that they are the subconscious heirs to the old Protestant Mainline, but are merely Post-Protestant — the same demographic group of people holding more or less the same views and fighting the same battles as the advocates of the social gospel.

In the second part of the book, Bottum turns to his second theme — the effort beginning around 2000 of Catholics and Evangelical Christians to form an alliance to create a new moral consensus to replace the void left by the collapse Protestant Mainline churches. Oversimplified, Bottum’s basic point is that this was an effort to marry the zeal and energy of Evangelical churches to the long, well-developed natural law theory of Catholicism, including Catholic social teaching. Again oversimplified, Bottum’s argument is that this effort was doomed on both sides of the equation–first, Catholicism is simply too dense and “foreign” to ever be a majoritarian church in the United States; and second, because evangelical Christianity itself has lost much of its vibrant nature. Bottum notes, which I hadn’t realized, that after years of rapid growth, evangelical Christianity appears to be in some decline in membership. Thus, the religious void remains. The obvious question with which one is left is if Bottum is correct that religious institutions uphold the third leg of the American stool, and if (as he claims) religion is the key to American exceptionalism, can America survive without a continued vibrant religious tradition?

Herewith a few of my own thoughts after reading the book:

The first is simply that this is an immensely interesting and readable book. I read almost the whole thing on a plane trip from California and Jody’s writing style just carries you along effortlessly. His writing is high stylistic without be overstylized and is just an absolute joy to read. He has a gift for weaving together larger ideas with anecdotes and exemplars of his point. He has a light touch in making his point that rarely offends (even on controversial issues) and always illuminates.

Second, is that I largely find Bottum’s argument persuasive. The absence of the Protestant Mainline as a central moral force in American society today is largely taken for granted, such that the implications are largely ignored–as if it has always been this way. To the extent that leaders of Mainline Protestant churches are ever noticed in public, my impression is they are viewed as somewhat buffoonish figures trotted out occasionally to add a veneer of religious window-dressing to the elite’s preexisting views on various political issues such as same-sex marriage and the size of the welfare state. I say “buffoonish” because they often seem to come across as intellectual lightweights, to shallow intellectually to be taken seriously by secular analysts and too shallow theologically to be taken seriously by religious analysts. As a result, they seem to have little influence over public life today. They’ve essentially made themselves irrelevant. (My apologies for painting with an overly-broad brush, and I realize that this is a contestable assertion. It just reflects my impression of how leaders of the Mainline Protestant churches are often treated in news coverage and the like).

Third, one  aspect of the modern post-Protestant morality that struck me after reading the book is its ostentatious and somewhat self-congratulatory nature. In the Preface to the book, Bottum explains that the proximate genesis of the book was an experience he had in 2011 when he was commissioned to write an article about the Occupy Wall Street protest movement. Bottum sensed in these young and clueless youth a deep spiritual anxiety. But it was not linked to any coherent political platform or reform agenda–instead, the goal was “change” of some sort and an assertion of the protesters moral rectitude; and, perhaps equally important (as Bottum describes it), an anxiety to be publicly congratulated for their moral rectitude. Campus protests today, for example, often seem to be sort of a form of performance art, where the gestures of protest and being seen to “care” are ends in themselves, as often the protests themselves have goals that are somewhat incoherent (compared to, say, protests against the Vietnam War). Bottum describes this as a sort of spirtual angst, a vague discomfort with the way things are and an even vaguer desire for change. On this point I wonder whether he is being too generous to their motives.

Fourth, and to my mind the most important thought I had while reading it, was that I found Bottum’s description of the causal decline of the Protestant Mainline incomplete. He briefly pauses to address the question: “The question, of course, is why it happened–this sudden decline of the Mainline, this collapse of the Great Church of America, this dwindling of American Protestantism even as it has now found the unity that it always lacked before.” He discusses a few of the hypotheses (at pages 104-107) but simply defers to the work of others.

But there is one thesis that he doesn’t consider that I think contributes much of the explanation of the decline of the importance of the Protestant Mainline, which is the thesis developed by Shelby Steele is his great book “White Guilt.” I think Steele’s argument provides the key to unlocking not only the decline of the Protestant Mainline but also the timing, and why the decline of the Protestant Mainline has been so much more precipitous than Evangelicals and Catholics, as well as why anti-Evangelical and anti-Catholic bigotry is so socially acceptable among liberal elites.

Steele’s thesis, oversimplified, is that the elite institutions of American society for many years were complicit in a system that perpetrated injustices on many Americans. The government, large corporations, major universities, white-show law firms, fraternal organizations, etc.–the military being somewhat of an exception to this–all conspired explicitly or tacitly in a social system that supported first slavery then racial discrimination, inequality toward women, anti-Semitism, and other real injustices. Moreover, all of this came to a head in the 1960s, when these long-held and legitimate grievances bubbled to the surface and were finally recognized and acknowledged by those who ran these elite institutions and efforts were taken to remediate their harms. This complicity in America’s evils, Steele argues, discredited the moral authority of these institutions, leaving not only a vacuum at the heart of American society but an ongoing effort at their redemption.

But, Steele argues, this is where things have become somewhat perverse. It wasn’t enough for, say, Coca-Cola to actually take steps to remediate its past sins, it was crucial for Coca-Cola to show that it was acknowledging its guilty legacy and, in particular, to demonstrate that it was now truly enlightened. But how to do that? Steele argues that this is the pivotal role played by hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton — they can sell the indulgences to corporations, universities, and the other guilty institutions to allow them to demonstrate that they “understand” and accept their guilt and through bowing to Jackson’s demands, Jackson can give them a clean bill of moral health.

Thus, Steele says that what is really going on is an effort by the leaders of these institutions to “dissociate” themselves from their troubled past and peer institutions today that lack the same degree of enlightenment. Moreover, it is crucially important that the Jackson’s of the world set the terms–indeed, the more absurd and ridiculous the penance the better from this perspective, because more ridiculous penances make it easier to demonstrate your acceptance of your guilt.

One set of institutions that Steele does not address, but which fits perfectly into his thesis, is the Protestant Mainline churches that Bottum is describing. It is precisely because the Protestant Mainline churches were the moral backbone of American society that they were in need of the same sort of moral redemption that universities, corporations, and the government. Indeed, because of their claim to be the moral exemplar, their complicity in real injustice was especially bad. Much of the goofiness of the Mainline Protestant churches over the past couple of decades can be well-understood, I think, through this lens of efforts to dissociate themselves from their legacy and other less-enlightened churches. In short, it seems that often their religious dogma is reverse-engineered–they start from wanting to make sure that they hold the correct cutting-edge political and social views, then they retrofit a thin veil of religious belief over those social and political opinions. Such that their religious beliefs today, as far as one ever hears about them at all, differ little from the views of The New York Times editorial page.

This also explains why Catholics and Evangelicals are so maddening, and threatening, to the modern elites. Unlike the Protestant Mainline churches that were the moral voice of the American establishment, Catholicism and Evangelicals have always been outsiders to the American establishment. Thus they bear none of the guilt of having supported unjust political and social systems and refuse to act like they do. They have no reason to kowtow to elite opinion and, indeed, are often quite populist in their worldview (consider the respect that Justices Scalia or Thomas have for the moral judgments of ordinary Americans on issues like abortion or same-sex marriage vs. the views of elites). Given the sorry record of American elites for decades, there is actually a dividing line between two world views. Modern elites believe that the entire American society was to blame, thus we all share guilt and must all seek forgiveness through affirmative action, compulsory sensitivity training, and recycling mandates. Others, notably Catholics and Evangelicals, refuse to accept blame for a social system that they played no role in creating or maintaining and which, in fact, they were excluded themselves. To some extent, therefore, I think that the often-remarked political fault line in American society along religious lines (which Bottum discusses extensively), is as much cultural and historical (in Steele’s sense) as disagreements over religion per se. At the same time, the decline of its moral authority hit the Protestant Mainline churches harder than well-entrenched universities, corporations, or the government, in part because the embrace of the Social Gospel had laid the foundations for their own obsolescence years before.

This also explains why if a religious revival is to occur, it would come from the alliance of Catholics and Evangelicals that he describes in the second half of the book. Mainline Protestantism seems to simply lack the moral authority to revive itself and has essentially made itself obsolete. There appears to be little market for religions without God.

In the end, Bottum leaves us with no answer to his central question–can America, which for so long relied on the Protestant Mainline churches to provide a moral and institutional third leg to the country, survive without it. Can the thin gruel of the post-Protestant New York Times elite consensus provide the moral glue that used to hold the country together? Perhaps, or perhaps not — that is the question we are left with after reading Bottum’s fascinating book.

Finally, I drafted this over the weekend, but I wanted to call attention to Jody’s new essay at the Weekly Standard “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas” that touches on many of the themes of the book and develops them in light of ongoing controversies, especially on the parallels between the new moral consensus and traditional religious thinking (and, in fact, his comments on “original sin” strike me as similar to the points about Shelby Steele that I raised above).

He traces this to the early 20th-century Social Gospel movement and the Protestant writer Walter Rauschenbusch. This movement has created a post-Protestant class: “Christian in the righteous timbre of its moral judgments, without any actual Christianity; middle class in social flavor, while ostensibly despising middle-class norms; American in cultural setting, even as [they believe] American history is a tale of tyranny.”

Voir de plus:

« An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America »


An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, by Joseph Bottum. Image Books (February 11, 2014)

We live in a profoundly spiritual age–but in a very strange way, different from every other moment of our history. Huge swaths of American culture are driven by manic spiritual anxiety and relentless supernatural worry. Radicals and traditionalists, liberals and conservatives, together with politicians, artists, environmentalists, followers of food fads, and the chattering classes of television commentators: America is filled with people frantically seeking confirmation of their own essential goodness. We are a nation desperate to stand on the side of morality–to know that we are righteous and dwell in the light.

Or so Joseph Bottum argues in An Anxious Age, an account of modern America as a morality tale, formed by its spiritual disturbances. And the cause, he claims, is the most significant and least noticed historical fact of the last fifty years: the collapse of the Mainline Protestant churches that were the source of social consensus and cultural unity. Our dangerous spiritual anxieties, broken loose from the churches that once contained them, now madden everything in American life.

Updating The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber’s sociological classic, An Anxious Age undertakes two case studies in contemporary social class, adrift in a nation without the religious understandings that gave it meaning. Looking at the college-educated elite he calls “The Poster Children,” Bottum sees the post-Protestant heirs of the old Mainline Protestant domination of culture: dutiful descendants who claim the high social position of their Christian ancestors even while they reject their ancestors’ Christianity. Turning to “The Swallows of Capistrano,” the Catholics formed by the pontificate of John Paul II, Bottum evaluates the early victories–and later defeats–of the attempt to substitute Catholicism for the dying Mainline voice in public life.

Sweeping across American intellectual and cultural history, An Anxious Age traces the course of national religion and warns about the strange angels and even stranger demons with which we now wrestle. Insightful and contrarian, wise and unexpected, An Anxious Age ranks among the great modern accounts of American culture.

Voir encore:

The New York Times magazine

There is a strange little cultural feedback loop that’s playing out again and again on social media. It begins with, say, a white American man who becomes interested in taking an outspoken stand against racism or misogyny. Maybe he starts by attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Or by reading the novels of Elena Ferrante. At some point, he might be asked to “check his privilege,” to acknowledge the benefits that accrue to him as a white man. At first, it’s humiliating — there’s no script for taking responsibility for advantages that he never asked for and that he can’t actually revoke. But soon, his discomfort is followed by an urge to announce his newfound self-­awareness to the world. He might even want some public recognition, a social affirmation of the work he has done on himself.

These days, it has become almost fashionable for people to telegraph just how aware they have become. And this uneasy performance has increasingly been advertised with one word: “woke.” Think of “woke” as the inverse of “politically correct.” If “P.C.” is a taunt from the right, a way of calling out hypersensitivity in political discourse, then “woke” is a back-pat from the left, a way of affirming the sensitive. It means wanting to be considered correct, and wanting everyone to know just how correct you are.

In the ’70s, Americans who styled themselves as “radical chic” communicated their social commitments by going to cocktail parties with Black Panthers. Now they photograph themselves reading the right books and tweet well-­tuned platitudes in an effort to cultivate an image of themselves as politically engaged. Matt McGorry, the actor who plays a sweetly doofy prison guard in “Orange Is the New Black,” is a helpful case study of this phenomenon. McGorry’s Instagram presence was once blithely ­bro-ey — yacht shots, tank tops, a tribute to coconut water. Then he watched the actress Emma Watson brief the United Nations on the importance of men’s involvement in the feminist movement, and he took it to heart. Now he presents his muscular selfies and butt jokes alongside iconography of feminism and anti-­racism. In one snap, he holds a copy of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” in bed, shirtless. In December, BuzzFeed nodded at McGorry with a listicle titled: “Can We Talk About How Woke Matt McGorry Was in 2015?”

Earning the “woke” badge is a particularly tantalizing prospect because it implies that you’re down with the historical fight against prejudice. It’s a word that arose from a specific context of black struggle and has recently assumed a new sense of urgency among activists fighting against racial injustices in Ferguson, Sanford, Baltimore and Flint. When Black Lives Matter activists started a website to help recruit volunteers to the cause, they called it StayWoke.org. “Woke” denotes awareness, but it also connotes blackness. It suggests to white allies that if they walk the walk, they get to talk the talk.

The most prominent pop touchstone for “stay woke” is Erykah Badu’s 2008 track “Master Teacher,” in which she sings the refrain “I stay woke.” “Erykah brought it alive in popular culture,” says David Stovall, a professor of African-­American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “She means not being placated, not being anesthetized. She brought out what her elders and my elders had been saying for hundreds of years.” In turn, the track has helped shepherd the next generation into its own political consciousness. In an interview with NPR last year, the rapper Earl Sweatshirt described listening to “Master Teacher” in the car with his mother as a teenager. “I was singing the hook, like, ‘I stay woke,’ ” he said. His mother turned down the music, and “she was like, ‘No you’re not.’ ”

Earl Sweatshirt’s mom was cautioning her son against brandishing a word without understanding its history and power. He got the message years later, he said, and called her up and announced: “I’m grown.” Such reflectiveness is often absent from the promiscuous spread of “woke” online. The word has now been recycled by people hoping to add splashes of drama to their own inconsequential obsessions, tweeting “Raptors will win it all #STAYWOKE” or “new bio … #staywoke.” The new iteration of radical chic is the guy on Tinder who calls himself a “feminist artist in Brooklyn” and then says he’s “looking for the you-know-what in the you-know-where” — the performance of “wokeness” is so conspicuous that it breeds distrust.

In a 2012 paper about race relations on Twitter, Dr. André Brock, a University of Michigan communications professor, wrote about how the surfacing of popular hashtags and trending topics “brought the activities of tech-­literate blacks to mainstream attention,” creating a space where the expressions of black identity are subject to “intense monitoring” by white people — a kind of accelerator for cultural appropriation. When black activists used “stay woke” in their Twitter campaigns against police violence, the term appeared alongside a host of trending hashtags — #ICantBreathe, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown — and was thus flagged for white people who have never listened to a Badu album or joined the crowd at a rally.

Defanged of its political connotations, “stay woke” is the new “plugged in.” In January, MTV announced “woke” as a trendy new slice of teen slang. As Brock said, “The original cultural meaning of ‘stay woke’ gets lost in the shuffle.”

And so those who try to signal their wokeness by saying “woke” have revealed themselves to be very unwoke indeed. Now black cultural critics have retooled “woke” yet again, adding a third layer that claps back at the appropriators. “Woke” now works as a dig against those who claim to be culturally aware and yet are, sadly, lacking in self-awareness. In a sharp essay for The Awl, Maya Binyam coined the term “Woke Olympics,” a “kind of contest” in which white players compete to “name racism when it appears” or condemn “fellow white folk who are lagging behind.”

The latest revolution of “woke” doesn’t roll its eyes at white people who care about racial injustice, but it does narrow them at those who seem overeager to identify with the emblems and vernacular of the struggle. For black activists, there is a certain practicality in publicly naming white allies. Being woke, Stovall says, means being “aware of the real issues” and willing to speak of them “in ways that are uncomfortable for other white folks.” But identifying allies poses risks, too. “There are times when people have been given the ‘black pass,’ and it hasn’t worked out so well,” Stovall says. “Like Clinton in the ’90s.” A white person who gains a kind of license to use power on behalf of black people can easily wield that power on behalf of themselves.

“Woke” feels a little bit like Macklemore rapping in one of his latest tracks about how his whiteness makes his rap music more acceptable to other white people. The conundrum is built in. When white people aspire to get points for consciousness, they walk right into the cross hairs between allyship and appropriation. These two concepts seem at odds with each other, but they’re inextricable. Being an ally means speaking up on behalf of others — but it often means amplifying the ally’s own voice, or centering a white person in a movement created by black activists, or celebrating a man who supports women’s rights when feminists themselves are attacked as man-haters. Wokeness has currency, but it’s all too easy to spend it.

The Puritans Among Us

Mary Eberstadt

National Review

April 21, 2014

Review of An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, by Joseph Bottum (Image, 320 pp., $25).

Some writers are “Catholic writers” in the sense that they do their work qua Catholics, and their main subject is the immense intellectual, social, and aesthetic patrimony of the Catholic Church. But there also exists a rarer kind of Catholic writer: the one who is multilingual in secular as well as religious tongues, whose Catholicism nonetheless runs so deep that it cannot help but shape and suffuse his every line.

Joseph Bottum, fortunately for American letters, is an example of the latter sort. In fact, it’s safe to say that if Mr. Bottum were anything but a writer who is also known to be Catholic, his name would be mandatory on any objective short list of public intellectuals, if there were such a thing. He is the author of several books, including a volume of poetry (The Fall & Other Poems), a work of verse set to music (The Second Spring), a bestselling memoir (The Christmas Plains), and now, with An Anxious Age, an immensely ambitious work of sociological criticism. His essays have garnered awards and are included in notable collections. He has also worn the hats of literary critic, columnist, editor, books editor, short-story writer, autobiographer, eulogist, public speaker, television pundit, Amazon author (via the groundbreaking Kindle Singles series), and visiting professor. If there were milliners for intellectuals, his would be the busiest in town.

Yet, as is not widely understood despite this prodigious body of work, Bottum is also, at heart, a storyteller — meaning that he is preoccupied not only with syllogism and validity but also with literary characters and creations. Once in a while, this absorption with dramatis personae ends up confounding readers — as happened just last year, when a long essay of his, published in Commonweal, arguing the futility of continuing Church opposition to same-sex marriage, combusted as instantly and widely as a summer brushfire. That piece, too, as was perhaps insufficiently noted at the time, began with and meandered around a literarycharacter: a former friend and foil with whom the piece amounts to an imaginary conversation.

To observe as much isn’t to say that fiction always trumps. It’s rather to note that with poets and poetry, for better or worse, comes license — including license to chase arguments into places where other people, rightly or wrongly, fear to tread.

That same singular gift is now turned to brilliant advantage in Bottum’s new book. A strikingly original diagnosis of the national moral condition, An Anxious Age bears comparison for significance and scope to only a handful of recent seminal works. Deftly analytical and also beautifully written, it has the head of Christopher Lasch and the heart of Flannery O’Connor. Anyone wishing to chart the deeper intellectual and religious currents of this American time, let alone anyone who purports to navigate them for the rest of the public, must first read and reckon withAn Anxious Age.

The book begins in territory that’s familiar enough: the well-known and ongoing collapse of the Protestant mainline churches, whose floor-by-floor implosion the author traced first in a seminal 2008 essay for First Things on “The Death of Protestant America.” This starting point soon widens dramatically onto a 180-degree view of the national milieu. Contrary to the widely held secularization thesis, according to which the decline of Christianity is inevitable, Bottum argues instead that the Puritans and Protestants of yesteryear still walk the country in new and rarely recognized “secular” guises. Bonnie Paisley of Oregon, Gil Winslow of upstate New York, Ellen Doorn of Texas — these and other characters conjured as the “Poster Children of Post-Protestantism” illustrate via their individual stories the author’s central point: The mainline hasn’t so much vanished as gone underground to become what O’Connor once derisively called “the Church without Christ.”

To be sure, the idea that secularization has not so much killed God as repurposed Him into seemingly secular shapes is not in itself new. It’s the key point in philosopher Charles Taylor’s work, especially in his prodigious book A Secular Age. No author, however, has brought this idea to life as Bottum does in An Anxious Age — whose very title, obviously, suggests the amendment that it is to Taylor’s thesis. Throughout, the Poster Children spring from the pages like so many impish holograms, turning two-dimensional arguments over “believing” and “belonging” into recognizable and ultimately persuasive companions at the reader’s elbow.

These Poster Children, the author argues, are direct descendants of the “social gospel” of Protestant theologian Walter Rauschenbusch: the notion that sin has a social and not merely individual dimension. “Social nature abhors a vacuum,” notes Bottum in a key passage,

and the past thirty years have seen many attempts to fill the space where Protestantism used to stand. Feminism in the 1980s, homosexuality in the 1990s, environmentalism in the 2000s, the quadrennial presidential campaigns that promise to reunify the nation . . . [these] movements have all posed themselves as partial Protestantisms, bastard Christianities, determined not merely to win elections but to be the platform by which all other platforms are judged.

Once again, the millenarian character of contemporary politics — particularly today’s politics of the Left — has been noted before. But once again, Bottum digs deeper here to yield truths not hitherto inspected.Partial Protestantisms, bastard Christianities: It isn’tonly that ostensibly secular leftism is Christianity in some unexpected, other guise. It’s rather that ostensibly secular leftism is a particular kind of truncated Christianity: the theological and sociological equivalent of the fatherless home.

And so, for example, Occupy Wall Street, for all its grubby pretension, is in essence just one more “protest against the continuing reign of Satan and a plea for the coming of the Kingdom of God, with a new heaven and a new earth.” Related yearnings for personal redemption, the author argues, also unite certain ardent young Catholics drawn to “lifeboat theology, escaping the rising sea of evil on small arks of the saved.” These groups are joined, he argues, at the sociological root — proof of what, in a bow to Max Weber, the book calls our “Anxious Age” created by “the catastrophic decline of the mainline Protestant churches that had once been central institutions in public life.”

In a curious way, An Anxious Age also amounts to a limited reenchantment of the intellectual world. When conservatives in particular attack “the elites,” Bottum argues, they “focus entirely on non-spiritual causes.” In this they overlook the essential link between these “elites” and their Puritan forebears, for “the one social ascendency they truly feel, the one deepest in their souls, is the superiority of the spiritually enlightened to those still lost in darkness.” Contrary to what both the Poster Children and their religious critics seem to think, all are leaning toward the same end: a sense of redemption. “Elite or not,” he observes, “they are the elect — people who understand themselves primarily in spiritual terms,” whether they darken the doors of churches or not.

An Anxious Age abounds in logic and clarification (and for that reason among others, it was derelict of the book’s publisher to omit footnotes and an index, both of which would have helped to signal its scholarly nature). Even so, it is the book’s metaphors that will haunt the reader after he puts it down. Who else would describe Protestantism in the United States as “our cultural Mississippi, rolling through the center of the American landscape”? Likely no one — but the image brings to vivid and unexpected life a thousand Pew Research reports on declining attendance and the rise in “nones.” Similarly, the author’s unspooling of the story of the swallows of San Juan Capistrano as a metaphor for explaining what has happened to Catholicism in America is not only arresting but convincing, succeeding both as religious sociology and as literary trope.

None of which is to say that the book’s every fillip and expostulation amounts to the last word. Like any serious work, this one excites demurrals, objections, and second and third thoughts. In particular, one wants to hear more about the other and less cerebral forces that were obviously at work in the implosion of mainline Protestantism and its fallout.

After all, not every religious movement emerging from the “burned-over district” in upstate New York suffered the same communal fate. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to take one salient example, went on to become one of the most ascendant faiths of the next century. Why did mainline Presbyterianism, say, fall one way on history’s divide, while Protestant evangelicalism and Mormonism, say, fell another? One likely answer is that the mainline’s doctrinal neglect and practical abandonment of the family led eventually to demographic disaster in the pews. In similar fashion, one can argue, Catholics who have behaved like Catholics have seen their own corners of the religious world prosper — and Catholics who have behaved like mainline Protestants have not.

Other points invite similar friendly debate, including the author’s claim that tomorrow’s Catholicism is necessarily less robust than yesterday’s because it is no longer as “inherited.” And of course one can also question ad infinitum why Bottum chose to discuss some of the thinkers in these pages, and not others. But no shortcomings gainsay the superb achievement here. As his friend and sometime collaborator, the author David P. Goldman, once put it, “One often learns more about the underlying issues from Jody Bottum’s mistakes than from the dutiful plodding of many of his peers.”

Readers who find the Poster Children stalking their imaginations might also hope to see more overt works of fiction from the talented Mr. Bottum down the road. Meanwhile, the daring achievement of the author of An Anxious Age — bringing sociology to unique fictional life — is something that the rest of us will be thinking about for a long time to come.

– Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the author of How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization.

Voir enfin:
Delphine Le Goff
Stratégies
16/12/2019

C’est le nouveau buzzword, une nouvelle forme de coolitude : être « woke » ou ne pas être. Le terme, dérivé de l’argot afro-américain, désigne l’état d’éveil aux injustices de la société au sens large. Une nouvelle forme de bien-pensance ?

Tenez-vous prêts. Il paraît que dans les mois à venir, on n’aura que ce mot à la bouche. Ringardisée, la bienveillance, mot de l’année 2018 selon Le Robert, utilisée jusqu’à l’écœurement – d’ailleurs bien souvent par des personnes en réalité tout sauf bienveillantes. 2019, paraît-il, sera l’année du « woke ». Même Le Monde, il y a quelques mois, donnait en avant-première ce sage conseil : « Ne soyez plus cool, soyez woke. » Voilà autre chose !
« Woke, c’est le nouveau buzzword, reconnaît Martin Lagache, planneur stratégique chez BETC, qui se lance dans une exégèse du terme, issu de l’argot afro-américain. C’est la chanteuse Erykah Badu qui l’a popularisé il y a une dizaine d’années, avec sa chanson “Master Teacher (I stay woke)”, puis en 2012, en utilisant la phrase “Stay woke” dans un message public de soutien aux Pussy Riot [groupe de rock féministe russe dissident]. » Woke, comme « éveillé », un terme repris à l’envi pendant le mouvement #Blacklivesmatter en 2013. Le terme s’est déployé et désigne aujourd’hui le fait d’être conscient de toutes les formes d’inégalités, du racisme au sexisme en passant par les préoccupations environnementales. En somme, résume Martin Lagache, « le “woke” est le terme étendard de la bien-pensance libérale [au sens anglo-saxon] américaine de gauche. Est-ce que les Gilets jaunes sont woke ? Tout le monde peut être woke. »

Atout séduction

Le terme infuse irrésistiblement, y compris dans les replis de la vie privée. À telle enseigne qu’être « woke » peut même faire de vous un prince ou une princesse de l’amour. Il est désormais de bon ton, dans les pays anglo-saxons, de proclamer que l’on est un « woke bae », c’est-à-dire un(e) petit(e) ami(e) progressiste et averti(e) des injustices de notre triste monde. Pour certains, il ne s’agit plus de débusquer Mr Right, mais Mr Woke : une journaliste du Guardian relatait ainsi, en août dernier, sa recherche éperdue de ce nouveau spécimen hautement désirable dans un déchirant article titré « My search for Mr Woke : a dating diary. » La rédactrice confie gentiment aux lecteurs ses trucs et astuces pour draguer « woke ». À faire : prononcer des phrases comme « la pauvreté n’est pas de la faute des pauvres ». À éviter : la complainte du « on ne peut plus rien dire ». C’est noté.

Grande recycleuse devant l’éternel, la publicité ne pouvait rester immune aux charmes du « woke ». Avec la récente campagne Gillette, « We believe : The best men can be », galerie d’hommes qui expriment leur aversion du sexisme ordinaire, des violences faites aux femmes, du mansplaining, du harcèlement scolaire – en bref, de ce que la marque désigne comme « la masculinité toxique » –, n’atteindrait-on pas un sommet de « wokeité » ? Sans l’ombre d’un doute, selon Olivier et Hervé Bienaimé, directeurs de la création de 84.Paris : « Pour ce qui est du combat contre le machisme et le patriarcat, le message est ultra-positif. » Et archi-opportuniste, aussi ? « Gillette change tout à coup de braquet, après nous avoir vendu pendant des années le modèle de l’homme blanc musclé en pleine réussite sociale », soulignent les créatifs.

Plus engagé que le cool

C’est bien d’être éveillé. Mais trop le faire savoir, ne serait-ce pas suspect ? « Le cool était une attitude anti-mainstream, un peu rebelle mais farouchement individualiste, souligne Martin Lagache. Avec le “woke”, on se situe dans une posture plus engagée. Mais bien souvent, c’est plus une posture qu’autre chose. Et dans la plupart des cas, une posture paresseuse de valorisation personnelle… » Dans une tribune pour le New York Times titrée « The Problem With Wokeness », l’éditorialiste David Brooks pointe les dérives du phénomène : « Le plus grand danger de la “wokeness” extrême est qu’elle rend plus difficile de pratiquer la dextérité nécessaire à toute vie en société, c’est-à-dire la faculté à appréhender deux vérités dans le même temps. »
Marie Nossereau, directrice du planning stratégique de Publicis Sapient, affiche carrément de la défiance par rapport à tout ce qui se prétend « woke ». « Les gens qui se disent plus éveillés que les autres, ça a toujours existé. C’est assez méprisant, cela sous-entend que tous les autres dorment, sont aux mains des multinationales… Le terme “woke” m’évoque aussi le discours de l’Église de Scientologie, dont les adeptes se disent “clear” [clairs]. Selon moi, cela fait partie de la même dialectique, je n’aime pas trop ça. In fine, ça ne me paraît pas très clean. »

Un brin hypocrite

Pas clean, peut-être pas, mais hypocrite, sans doute un peu trop souvent. On revient à Gillette : « Dans les faits, la marque continue à vendre des rasoirs pour les femmes plus chers que les rasoirs pour les hommes… », grince Martin Lagache. Gillette, au passage, s’est félicitée publiquement d’avoir vu les ventes de ses rasoirs bondir après sa campagne… Les frères Bienaimé de l’agence 84.Paris rappellent quant à eux « le film “The Talk” de Procter & Gamble qui a raflé des tonnes de prix, pour une marque qui n’a pas vraiment été “woke” pendant des décennies. Une conscience éveillée, OK, si les produits suivent. »
Et si, malgré tout, l’éveil n’en était qu’à ses prémices ? La sociologue Irène Pereira et l’historienne Laurence De Cock ont publié en janvier un ouvrage, Les pédagogies critiques (Éd. Agone contre-feux), qui prône une éducation inspirée des travaux du pédagogue brésilien Paulo Freire et du pédagogue français Célestin Freinet. Il s’agirait non pas de préparer les élèves à devenir des bêtes à concours ou de futurs soldats des entreprises, mais plutôt de leur enseigner les rapports de domination qui régissent le monde pour mieux les réduire à néant. Pour une future génération woke ?

Voir enfin:

Against Moralistic Therapeutic Totalitarianism

 

I have received some of the best comments from readers about retired Catholic theologian Larry Chapp’s short essays, which I’ve published in this space. I was pleased to wake up this morning and find another one from him in my in-box. I count myself fortunate to be in a position of publishing them in this space.

Below is an essay Larry titles “The Collective Of Concupiscence.” In it, he pretty much sums up my take on the current political and social situation, though I have some post-election thoughts to add at the end. First, here’s Larry:

There is talk in some quarters of Oprah Winfrey running for President in 2020. My response to this is, why not? If Donald Trump can be President ­ a man whose only qualification for the job seems to be that he is a rich celebrity, then any rich celebrity can be President I guess.

What all of this probably points to, sadly, is how utterly exhausted and bankrupt our politics has become, with Americans by the millions turning away from the more experienced political insiders in favor of outsiders who promise us that they alone can provide the radical change that is needed. And everyone seems to agree that radical change is indeed needed, so long as “radical change” means ripping the Band-Aids off of everyone else’s scabs but mine. Radical change can also mean, rather simply, that you want the power that the ruling party possesses transferred to your party. Which is to say, no change at all, which is why you have to lie about it.

For example, in our last election, “Drain the swamp!” was the mantra of the Trump supporters. But did anyone really expect that the man we elected, a swamp creature if ever there were one, would be able to do this? And what, exactly, does one do with a drained swamp anyway? Probably sell it to developers who would build overpriced, poorly made, beige and boring condos, nicely accessorized with a strip mall complete with a Dunkin Donuts and a Vape shop. In other words, just a different kind of swamp. The Democrats prefer the fevered swamp of coercive governmental power, whereas the Republicans prefer the fetid swamp of corporate greed. So all we have really done is trade Lenin for Bezos.

Oh, I can hear people now… “Damn it Chapp, you are always so negative about politics and America. You have to live in the real world and the real world is never perfect!” If you are in that cloud of critics, then I can say to you that you are correct about one thing: nothing in this world is wholly perfect. But that does not mean that there aren’t degrees of imperfection. To deny this is to deny that there is such a thing as truth ­ ­– a truth that acts as the barometer for all of our actions, political or otherwise.

Therefore, my claim is this, a claim that you can take or leave as you see fit, but a claim I stand by with full conviction: the contemporary American socio­ economic­-political system is predicated in a foundational way on a profound and tragic falsehood. It is a false first principle shared by every major governmental and economic institution in this country and it stands in total contradiction to the Christian faith.

This false first principle can be stated simply and then its logical conclusions can be teased out as follows: God is irrelevant to the construction of government and our public life together, which is to say, God does not exist, which is to say, nothing spiritual or supernatural exists, which is to say that we are all purely material beings with no purpose or goal or end beyond the satisfaction of our individual desires, which is to say that pleasure (the satisfaction of our base desires) is more rooted in reality than happiness (the joy and peace that comes from pursuing the higher spiritual realities like the moral good). Indeed, according to this false principle, the spiritual dimension of life and the moral good are, at best, “noble lies,” and at worst repressive illusions ­­– repressive, since their pursuit often inhibits the attainment of pleasure.

The late Italian philosopher Augusto del Noce, building on this same insight (that our culture is founded on a false first principle: God does not matter), points out that the ruling philosophy that our culture has adopted as a replacement for God and religion is the philosophy known as “scientism”. In a nutshell, scientism is the belief that only the hard, empirical sciences give us access to truth. Everything else is an illusion. Therefore, when it comes to our common life together as a people ­ — a life that comes to be defined, regulated and controlled by government and corporate elites — there is only one form of reason that is “allowed in” as proper public discourse. And that is the language of science.

Furthermore, given our reduction of life to economics, what the elevation of science really means is the ascendency of “applied science” (technology) to pride of place. Every aspect of our social life thus comes under the purview of governmental control, and all culture and every form of reason becomes a function of politics. And this final step, the submission of culture to politics, is the very heart of totalitarianism. Only, in this case, it is not the totalitarianism of the Nazis or the Stalinists or the Maoists ­– ­brutal, bloody, and quite vulgar in its unsubtle use of blunt violence ­– but rather the much more seductive totalitarianism of techno-­nihilism, where our base bodily desires form what I call a “Collective of Concupiscence” which the government regulates, and the economy inflames.

Our future is thus most likely to be a dystopian one. But it won’t be the dystopia of the concentration camp. Rather, it will be Huxley’s Brave New World with a Disneyland aesthetic. Because… you know… “family values”.

You might think this is an exaggeration. I don’t think it is. It is the logical conclusion of scientism no matter what our elites might say about our bold new future. Because, despite what scientism’s popularizers (such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins) might say in their more poetic moments when speaking about the “beauty” of the cosmos and of science, the fact is, if I am just an ape with a big brain, and an accidental byproduct of the cosmic chemistry of stardust remnants, then I really don’t give a shit about some gaseous blob, or even a vast number of “billions and billions” of gaseous blobs, ten million light years away; or the “fascinating” mating rituals of fruit bats; or the “poetry” of soil regeneration through dung beetle digestive cycles. In other words, when you are told endlessly that there is no meaning to existence, then guess what? You actually start to think that way. And then everything loses its flavor. Everything starts to taste like rice cakes.

Therefore, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot bleach divinity and Transcendence out of the cosmos and tell everyone that the whole affair is just an aimless and pointless accident, and then turn around and talk to us about the “moral necessity” of this or that urgent social cause. Why should I even care about the future of humanity itself? Why should I care about the ultimate destiny of ambulatory, bipedal, chemistry sets?

So really, it doesn’t matter who is in power … Democrats or Republicans, Trump or Oprah, and it does not matter if we place more emphasis on the government to solve our problems or free enterprise economics. Because our entire society operates according to the false premise I articulated above. In that sense we are all Marxists now, insofar as Marx’s controlling idea was the notion that the material world is all that exists and that economics drives everything.

And try as we might to deny that this materialistic view of existence is death to the higher functions of our soul, there is no escaping the fact that fewer and fewer people will devote themselves to higher pursuits, once the notions of God, Transcendence, purpose, meaning, the Good, and so on, are banished from our lexicon of acceptable ideas. We will increasingly privilege pleasure over happiness, which is to say, we will privilege opioids, techno gadgets, virtual reality stimulation, porn, and various other forms of addiction. We will be, if we aren’t already, a nation of addicts. Because if there is one thing we know about our bodily appetites it is that they are insatiable, requiring ever more of the same things to slake our rapacious desires. But partaking of the same thing, addictively, over and over and over, is boring. It crushes and kills the soul. And so what we will really end up with is not a society of liberated selves, but a society of bored, libidinous, pleasure addicts trending toward suicidal despair.

Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that we all share the same basic bodily appetites. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, gay or straight, fat or skinny, old or young, or what race you are, or your ethnicity, or your political party, or if you prefer the vapid and brain-dead banter of “Fox and Friends” over the vicious and pompous self­-importance of the moronic ladies on “The View”. Once you take away the idea that human nature has a spiritual side that, you know, “trends upward”, you are left with staring at your crotch or your gut or your veins. This is, of course, absolutely true, but we ignore the downward spiral of our culture into techno­pagan bacchanalia because our affluent elites, the poor dears, have confused despairing addiction and the “dark” view of life it spawns, with sophistication, and count as “enlightenment” a cultivated anti-intellectual stupidity.

I am struck, for example, by how many of the lead characters in shows made by Netflix or Amazon (especially detective shows) are depressive and “dark” souls, haunted by some hidden pain in their past that is the irritant in the oyster that creates the pearl of their genius. So far so good, since we all have hidden pain in our lives, and the various things we all suffer from really are, quite often, the genesis of much depth and creativity.

But these characters are different. They are nihilistic, often cruel, morally ambiguous, irreligious of course (duh), self­-destructive, and live as radically atomized, alienated and isolated individuals devoid of love or meaningful relationships. And if they do develop a relationship, it usually flounders on the shoals of the lead character’s unfathomably dark pain. Or worse, the love interest is killed off, with a hefty dose of complicit guilt on the part of the lead character, further adding to his or her morose self-­immolation. And all of this is portrayed as “sophisticated”. (There are exceptions of course, but this is just an anecdotal and subjective impression I have of many of these shows).

The irritating thing about all of this, of course, is that it is just so puerile and shallow, with little justification for its pretentious dismissal of “God” or “the Good”. And it is unbearably boring and drab. Is there anything more pitifully awful than being forced to listen to someone drone on and on about their “sexuality”?

By contrast, people only really become interesting when they differentiate themselves from one another, as true individuals, by cultivating the higher levels of the soul. And this is done in many ways, even still today, because the fact is we ARE spiritual beings and the spiritual dimension of our existence cannot be snuffed out. But those among us who still seek these things are becoming ever rarer and are being forced into ghettos or isolated enclaves of activity, and frequently branded as bigots because we adhere to traditional religious views about God and such things. It does appear, in other words, that the Collective of Concupiscence has fangs and claws, because at the end of the day, we are all “God haunted”, which is why members of the Collective view traditional religious believers as their tormentors

However, sadly, gradually the creative power of the majority of people is being perverted and bent to serve the needs of the emerging political and economic collective ­ ­– the Collective of Concupiscence ­ — wherein the true “liberation” of your “identity” can only come about when all of those institutions that represent the values of the Spirit are branded as oppressors. We WILL be liberated, and we WILL use government to enforce that liberation, and we WILL demand that the economy provide us with the means to enjoy the fruits of that liberation. Indeed, we will demand that the economy provide us with all of the gadgets and accouterments that we need to enhance our pleasures to unimaginable heights. Welcome to the wacky, upside down world of the new “sophistication”: mass ­produced individualism where radical “nonconformity” means all public and, increasingly, private speech, will be policed, looking for any sign that someone has breached the canons of non­conforming orthodoxy. So “individualism” here appears to mean its exact opposite.

But that is what you get in the Collective of Concupiscence. Somewhere Orwell is smiling.

Peter Maurin lived before all of this technological wizardry was real. But he lived in an age of totalitarianisms. And he was a thinking Catholic. Which means he had a deep prophetic insight into what was around the corner, so to speak. And just as Rod Dreher, in his wonderful book, The Benedict Option, calls orthodox Christians to a deeper awareness of the profoundly anti­ Christian challenges our culture is putting before us, so too did Peter Maurin warn us that the only way we will endure the coming storm of cultural barbarity is to form deeply intentional communities of Christian intellectual discourse, moral ecology, and liturgical practice. Not so that we can “escape” the world and shun our brothers and sisters who remain within it. But so that we can know ourselves better and come closer to God so as to be better able to serve our neighbor in love.

The members of the Collective of Concupiscence are not our “enemies”. Indeed, we are, if we are honest, infected with the same bacillus as everyone else. We are all in the Collective in one­ way or another. And so there is no question of abandoning the culture because that is, quite simply, neither desirable nor possible.

But we cannot drink from the same poisonous well and so we must cultivate new sources of “living water” in order to share it with everyone. And “everyone” means, literally, “everyone”. So please do not accuse me of “us vs. them” thinking. That kind of approach is not an option for a Christian. But if you do not “have” a Christian sensibility of the big questions of life, then by default you will “have” the template provided by our culture. I will end therefore with an old Latin phrase: “Nemo dat quod non habet”: You cannot give what you do not have.

Larry Chapp writes from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in rural Pennyslvania that he runs with his wife, Carmina. You can visit the farm; follow the link for more information.

Larry’s essay made me reflect on why the only thing in politics that seriously engages my interest these days is the appointment of federal judges. I believe that the dystopia Larry Chapp envisions in this essay — this present dystopia, and the dystopia to come — is unstoppable in the short run. The question is only whether or not we will have a right-wing or a left-wing version of it. I care so much about federal judges because I see them as the only institution that can protect the rights of dissenters to be left alone in this new America.

Don’t get me wrong. Leaving aside the courts, it’s not a matter of total indifference whether or not there’s an R or a D sitting in the White House. Despite all his sins and failings, President Trump is not going to sic the Justice Department on Christian schools that fail to Celebrate Diversity — Or Else™. A Democratic president almost certainly would — and almost certainly will. As America secularizes, though — a process that includes professing Christians changing their minds on moral issues that conflict with liberalism — people will cease to understand why the trad holdouts believe what they believe, and do what they do. It is possible that there will be enough libertarian sentiment left in the country to leave us alone — but I very much doubt that. The only exterior protection we can rely on will be a federal judiciary, especially the Supreme Court — that holds strong First Amendment convictions about protecting religious minorities.

Some Benedict Option critics think they’re making a meaningful argument against it when they say some version of, “Ah ha, what do you think is going to happen to your little communities when the State decides they are a public danger, huh?” It’s a reasonable point, but a weak one. It is precisely when the State decides that traditional Christians are a danger to it that the Benedict Option is going to be most needed. But it is still needed up until that time — which may never come — because our faith is not being taken away from us by the State; it is being dissolved by the ambient culture. For example, Washington is not compelling Christian parents to let their children be absorbed by social media and catechized by the Internet.

I see getting good federal judges in place to be an entirely defensive political act, designed to gain more time for religious minorities to develop resilient practices and institutions capable of enduring what’s to come, and keeping the faith alive.

I also see nothing at all wrong with traditional Christians engaging in politics for other reasons. My only caution — and it’s a strong caution — is that they not fool themselves into thinking that by doing so, they are meaningfully addressing the most severe crisis upon us. Let me put it like this: in the Book of Daniel, the Hebrew captives Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego served the King in high positions of state. You could say that they worked in politics, though they were outsiders. But when it came down to it, those men chose the prospect of martyrdom to the apostasy the King demanded of them. What practices did the three Hebrew men live by in their everyday lives as Jews in Babylon that gave them the presence of mind, and the strength, to choose God over Nebuchadnezzar? That’s the question that ought to be first on the minds of every traditional Christian thinking of going into public service. It’s the same with Sir Thomas More, who went to his martyrdom proclaiming that he was the King’s good servant — but God’s first.

One of the most important lines in Larry Chapp’s essay is his point that we traditional Christians “are infected with the same bacillus as everyone else.” It brought to mind the insufficiency of institutions and habits to protect us fully from the malaise of the broader culture. To be clear: these things are necessary, but not sufficient.

An example: at the Notre Dame conference, I spoke with an academic from a conservative Christian college. He told me that the student body there is quite conservative and observant. They are overwhelmingly pro-life. But they also do not understand at all what’s wrong with gay marriage. There are strong arguments from Scripture and from the authoritative Christian tradition, but these make no sense to them. Mind you, most of these young people were raised in optimal environments for the passing down of the faith and its teachings, and yet, on the key matter of the meaning of sex, marriage, and family, they … don’t get it.

I asked my interlocutor why. He shrugged, and said, “The culture is just too powerful.”

The problem with this is that in order to arrive at the point where one, as a Christian, rejects the Church’s teaching on the interrelated meaning of sex, marriage, and family, one has to reject both the authority of Scripture (and, for Catholics, the Church), and the anthropological core of Christianity — that is, the Biblical model of what man is. Ultimately, you have to reject traditional Christian metaphysics. I cover this all in my Sex and Sexuality chapter of The Benedict Option, but the heart of it is in this 2013 essay, “Sex After Christianity.” The gist of it is that the gay marriage revolution is really a cosmological revolution, and that to affirm gay marriage, as a Christian, means surrendering far more than many Christians think. It means, ultimately, that you see the world through the post-Christian culture’s template, not Christianity’s. What is likely happening with these young people is that they’re pro-life because they see the unborn child as a bearer of rights, including the right to life. And they’re not wrong! But that’s essentially a liberal position, one that is entirely amenable to gay marriage and the rest. The “bacillus” of materialism and radical individualism may find more resistance within the Body of Christ, but it still compromises its health.

Here’s another reason to be concerned, and to resist hoping in politics. It’s from an interview with Sir Roger Scruton:

How do current right-wing populist politics fit (or not) into your conception of conservative thought and conservative politics?

Well, I’m not a populist. I’m a believer in institutions. I think that institutions are the only guarantee we have of continuity and freedom. If you make direct appeals to the people all the time, the result is totally unstable and unpredictable, like the French Revolution. The revolutionaries made direct appeal to the people, and then discovered that they hated the people. So, they cut off their heads.

I believe [British historian] Simon Schama wrote a book on the topic…

Yes, Simon Schama’s book on the French Revolution is very revealing about this. The attempts to get rid of all mediating institutions just leaves the people in a dangerous condition, and a demagogue in charge. You can see this in Robespierre and Saint Just. And the only good thing about the French Revolution is that the demagogue gets his head chopped off as well.

So, I believe in institutions, and in using institutions to direct the people towards the kind of continuity and stability that they actually need, but doing it with their consent, obviously. That’s where the democratic process comes in.

What are your thoughts on the balance between consent and stability?

Well, first of all, stability requires legitimacy of opposition. There has to be a discussion of all the issues. That means that there must be a voice for the opponent, that’s what Congress and Parliament are about. And the first victim of real populism is the opponent, who is shut up. The press is taken away from him, parliamentary positions are taken away from him, so that the leading power has no voice opposed to it. …

It is no secret now that Americans have lost faith in institutions across the board. As Bill Bishop puts it, this is not Trump’s fault; the way we live in modernity all but guarantees it. Trump is not the cause of this, but rather an effect — though of course he also serves as a cause. The fact that a man can be elected President of the United States despite having violated so many institutional norms tells us something about the presidency, and the American people today. We are losing, and in many cases have already lost, mediating institutions. America is quite vulnerable to a demagogue — and there’s no guarantee that the demagogue will always be from the political right. Huey P. Long, for example, was a very effective left-wing demagogue — and he emerged almost a century ago, when the power of American institutions was much, much stronger than it is today.

We see in Trump a desire to delegitimize the opposition. For example, the media isn’t simply biased — a standard conservative politician’s critique, because it’s usually true — but is illegitimate. That’s what “fake news” means. The thing is, on college campuses, the urge to delegitimize opposition as racist, sexist, homophobic, and so forth, is exactly the same thing. Ultimately it will become more powerful, because this mentality is conquering the hearts and minds of the kind of people who will be running the institutions that, however attenuated their influence, will be shaping the perceptions and beliefs of Americans.

The power of Google and Facebook to determine which opinions are legitimate and which ones are not is going to be massively important. And I would be shocked if some form of the Chinese “social credit” system were not introduced into this country. What does that mean? From the National Interest:

The Chinese government has  unveiled a new program that it dubbed the “social credit system.” The system won’t be fully operational until 2020, but already it has generated as many as  7 million  punishments.

The system would rate the “trustworthiness” of Chinese citizens according to a wide variety of factors, such as what they buy, how they spend their time, and who their friends are, just to name a few.

The government would then take those deemed untrustworthy and punish them by not letting their children attend prestigious private schools, not allowing them to travel, and shutting down their internet presence.

The Chinese Communist government  promises that the social credit system will “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

However, one must ask what it means to be “untrustworthy.”

In the  case of journalist Liu Hu, it could mean trying to expose government corruption. Other offenses could be things such as jaywalking, smoking on a train, criticizing the government, or having friends or family that speak ill of the government, all things that can lower one’s score.

In a future America in which opposition is deemed illegitimate, and in which personal data is widely available, how long do you think we can hold out against the temptation to institute a social credit score system? In China, it is being imposed from the top. In the US, our population is being acculturated by online norms, as well by an ethos that regards opponents not simply as wrong, but evil. We are being conditioned to accept this, and even, within the next couple of generations, to demand it.

It might come from the right, in which case I believe conservatives would bear a special responsibility for fighting it. But looking at the demographic data about the political and cultural beliefs of younger Americans, I think it is far, far more likely that it will come from the left — and that it will primarily be directed towards thought criminals like traditional Christians and social conservatives.

In that case, the best chance we have to protect ourselves from that all-encompassing tyranny would be a Supreme Court that defends the First Amendment. The greater concern for us, however, is that there would be no need for traditional Christians to be protected from a tyrannical social-credit-score government, because all Christians will have conformed internally, like so many “good German Christians” of the 1930s, to the regime — in our case, a regime of Moralistic Therapeutic Totalitarianism.

Larry Chapp:

…so too did Peter Maurin warn us that the only way we will endure the coming storm of cultural barbarity is to form deeply intentional communities of Christian intellectual discourse, moral ecology, and liturgical practice. Not so that we can “escape” the world and shun our brothers and sisters who remain within it. But so that we can know ourselves better and come closer to God so as to be better able to serve our neighbor in love.

We have to build this now — while there is still time.

UPDATE: Former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom was elected Governor of California last night. Note this:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The old liberals — Jerry Brown, say — who respected institutions are dying out. Newsom is the next generation. Damon Linker is right to point to Newsom’s willingness to openly defy the law to achieve a liberal goal as a harbinger of what’s to come from the left. He was eager to cut down the law to get to the devil of homophobia. This kind of thing is coming.

6 Responses to Guerres culturelles: La ‘wokeité’ serait-elle le christianisme des imbéciles ? (Purer-than-thou: Behind the fourth Great Awakening we now see taking to our streets once again is nothing but the Girardian escalation of mimetic rivalry, former Weekly Standard literary editor Joseph Bottum says)

  1. jcdurbant dit :

    NO SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER (Guess who the day before the presidential debate just discovered what every single one of his Christian voters has long known ?)

    “I’m not voting for Trump to be the teacher of my third grader’s Sunday-school class. That’s not what he’s running for. I believe it is imperative … that we do everything we can to turn people out.”

    Robert Jeffress (Dallas megachurch pastor )

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-secretly-mocks-his-christian-supporters/616522/

    J'aime

  2. jcdurbant dit :

    ALL THE FAKE NEWS THAT IS FIT TO PRINT (Guess who just before the first presidential debate, discovers the real economic world ?)

    “ I wasn’t surprised that it turns out that Trump had paid almost no federal income tax. Most commercial real estate developers deduct large interest payments on their debts from taxable income, thereby lowering their tax bills. Typically, they also often avoid capital gains taxes by plowing profits from the sale of one building into the purchase of another. Most tax experts expected you would find little in the way of tax payments by President Trump. »

    Eugene Steuerle (tax expert)

    The Times noted that Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said of the Times report that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and asked for the documents on which the reporting was based, which the Times declined to provide in order to protect its sources. The Times said Garten then directly disputed only the amount of taxes Trump had paid.

    Here are some key takeaways from the Times’ reporting:

    TRUMP PAID JUST $750 IN TAXES IN BOTH 2016 and 2017.

    The newspaper said Trump initially paid $95 million in taxes over the 18 years it studied. But he managed to recover most of that money by claiming — and receiving — a stunning $72.9 million federal tax refund. According to the Times, Trump also pocketed $21.2 million in state and local refunds, which are typically based on federal filings.

    Trump’s outsize refund became the subject of a now-long-standing Internal Revenue Service audit of his finances. The audit was widely known. Trump has claimed it was the very reason why he cannot release his returns. But the Times report is the first to identify the issue that was mainly in dispute.

    As a result of the refund, Trump paid an average $1.4 million in federal taxes from 2000 to 2017, the Times reported. By contrast, the average U.S. taxpayer in the top .001% of earners paid about $25 million annually over the same timeframe.

    TRUMP HAS FINANCED AN EXTRAVAGANT LIFESTYLE WITH THE USE OF BUSINESS EXPENSES.

    From his homes, his aircraft — and $70,000 on hair styling during his television show “The Apprentice” — Trump has capitalized on cost incurred from his businesses to finance a luxurious lifestyle.

    The Times noted that Trump’s homes, planes and golf courses are part of the Trump family business and, as such, Trump classified them as business expenses as well. Because companies can write off business expenses as deductions, all such expenses have helped reduce Trump’s tax liability.

    MANY OF HIS BEST-KNOWN BUSINESSES ARE MONEY-LOSERS

    The president has frequently pointed to his far-flung hotels, golf courses and resorts as evidence of his success as a developer and businessman. Yet these properties have been been draining money.

    The Times reported that Trump has claimed $315 million in losses since 2000 on his golf courses, including the Trump National Doral near Miami, which Trump has portrayed as a crown jewel in his business empire. Likewise, his Trump International Hotel in Washington has lost $55 million, the Times reported.

    FOREIGN VISITORS HAVE HELPED SUPPORT TRUMP’S PROPERTIES

    Since Trump began his presidential run, lobbyists, foreign governments and politicians have lavished significant sums of money on his properties, a spending spree that raised questions about its propriety and legality.

    The Times report illustrates just how much that spending has been: Since 2015, his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida has taken in $5 million more a year from a surge in membership. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association spent at least $397,602 in 2017 at Trump’s Washington hotel. Overseas projects have produced millions more for Trump — $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey.

    TRUMP WILL FACE FINANCIAL PRESSURE AS DEBTS COME DUE

    Trump seems sure to face heavy financial pressures from the enormous pile of debt he has absorbed. The Times said the president appears to be responsible for $421 million in loans, most of which will come due within four years. On top of that, a $100 million mortgage on Trump Tower in New York will come due in 2022.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-justified-in-saying-that-his-billion-plus-of-tax-losses-may-not-have-been-financial-2019-05-08

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  3. jcdurbant dit :

    IT’S DEPRECIATION, STUPID !

    « I have a write-off, a lot of it is depreciation, which is a wonderful charge. I love depreciation.”

    President Trump

    “Depreciation is going to significantly lower Trump’s tax liability because he is in the real estate business. But he is also notorious for carrying high debt loads, which generate high interest expense. Interest expense would also add to tax losses since it is a deductible expense, but unlike depreciation it’s a cash, out-of-pocket expense. Trump is a classic story of a businessman that uses other people’s money, debt, to overspend on businesses and fund salaries, perquisites, and lucrative contracts for himself, his family, and his cronies that have, over the years paid for his entire lifestyle. It’s not much different from how he conducts his administration.”

    Andrew Schmidt (North Carolina State University)

    Losses shown on the tax return are not the same as cash losses or even financial losses, according to Andrew Schmidt, a professor of tax and accounting at North Carolina State University. Financial losses, or the “bottom line,” is the net income that results after subtracting all business expenses from revenue and other income. Cash losses result when a company, or taxpayer like Trump who runs many businesses, spends more cash than it takes in. Negative cash flow is like overdrawing your checking account. Tax calculations of losses or profit, however, uses a hybrid of cash and non-cash expenses, or deductions, and apply different rules and estimates than companies or complex investors are required to use to put together the statements that portray their financial health to a bank or other lender.

    Schmidt told MarketWatch, “Depreciation is going to significantly lower Trump’s tax liability because he is in the real estate business. But he is also notorious for carrying high debt loads, which generate high interest expense. Interest expense would also add to tax losses since it is a deductible expense, but unlike depreciation it’s a cash, out-of-pocket expense.”

    The Times cited figures on Tuesday from a transcript of the old tax returns, a report that is typically requested from the IRS, or by an IRS agent, when there are questions about an old return or a taxpayer is under audit. It is not the actual return with all schedules.

    Robert Thesman, a Washington state CPA who specializes in real estate tax issues, previously told MarketWatch that big tax losses can be caused by many activities that have no cash flow effect, such as a big first-year depreciation on a leveraged asset like a casino or hotel.

    In fact, a more recent return shows Trump didn‘t get away tax-free forever.

    In March 2017, investigative reporter David Cay Johnston told news show host Rachel Maddow that two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax return showed Trump actually paid taxes of $38 million on income of $150 million that year.

    Trump took advantage of a large “other income” loss, which reduced his adjusted gross income but triggered an additional alternative minimum tax of $31.2 million. Trump also paid $1.9 million for self-employment tax.

    Absent the alternative minimum tax — which was substantially scaled back by the Tax Reform Act of 2017 — Trump would have paid only $5.3 million in income tax, or about 11% of his total income.

    The new tax law kept the AMT but raised the exemption and phase-out levels for the tax years between 2018 and 2025. The Wall Street Journal reported that the AMT is estimated to affect only about 200,000 tax filers per year going forward compared to 5 million taxpayers who were hit with it in the 2017 tax year.

    “Trump is a classic story of a businessman that uses other people’s money, debt, to overspend on businesses and fund salaries, perquisites, and lucrative contracts for himself, his family, and his cronies that have, over the years paid for his entire lifestyle. It’s not much different from how he conducts his administration,” Schmidt told MarketWatch.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-is-justified-in-saying-that-his-billion-plus-of-tax-losses-may-not-have-been-financial-2019-05-08

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  4. jcdurbant dit :

    WHAT CONVENIENT VIRTUE-SIGNALING ? (How do California residents from Asia, Latin America or Europe owe reparations to the current 6.5 percent of the state’s population that is African American in a state which never had legal slavery and in a time of pandemic, mass quarantine, self-induced recession, riot, arson and looting ?)

    « Are we to establish a precedent that those who never owned slaves in a society that has no memory of slavery are to redistribute billions of their dollars to those whose grandparents were never slaves and in a multiethnic, multiracial California — where those identifying as white are a minority, and those of mixed ancestries number in the millions — how does the state adjudicate who owes what to whom? (…) Should the state pay reparations to the descendants of Jews who fled the Holocaust, of Cambodians who fled Pol Pot’s reign of death, of Armenians who escaped Ottoman barbarity, or of Irish and Chinese who were worked to death on the Transcontinental Railroad how will borrowing money to pay some 2 million to 3 million of the state’s 40 million residents make things easier for the African-American population? (…) And are multimillionaire state residents such as LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Beyoncé eligible? »

    VDH

    California’s state legislature just passed, and Governor Gavin Newsom signed, Assembly Bill 3121 to explore providing reparations to California’s African-American population — 155 years after the abolition of slavery. Apparently, when California’s one-party government cannot find solutions to current existential crises, it turns to divisive issues that have little to do with the safety and well-being of its 40 million citizens. California has the highest gas taxes in the nation, even as its ossified state highways remain clogged and dangerous. Why, then, does Sacramento kept pouring billions of dollars into the now-calcified high-speed-rail project?

    When fires raged, killed dozens, polluted the air for months, consumed thousands of structures, and scorched 4 million acres of forest, the governor reacted by thundering about global warming. But Newsom was mostly mute about state and federal green policies that discouraged the removal of millions of dead and drought-stricken trees, which provided the kindling for the infernos.

    When gasoline, sales, and income taxes rose, and yet state schools became even worse, infrastructure remained decrepit, and deficits grew, California demanded that federal COVID-19 money bail out its own financial mismanagement.

    In a time of pandemic, mass quarantine, self-induced recession, riot, arson, and looting, the California way is to borrow money to spend on something that will not address why residents can’t find a job, can’t rely on their power grid, can’t drive safely, can’t breathe the air, can’t ensure a high-quality education for their children, and can’t walk the streets of the state’s major cities without fear of being assaulted or stepping in excrement.

    So it is a poor time to discuss reparations, even if there were good reasons to borrow to pay out such compensation. But in fact there are none.

    One, California was admitted to the Union in 1850 as a free state. Its moral insistence 170 years ago that slavery be outlawed precipitated a crisis — and almost sparked the Civil War ten years before it actually began. Despite the efforts of some slave-owning arrivals into California, there was never legal slavery in the state.

    Two, about 27 percent of California residents were not born in the United States. Most of the naturalized citizens and undocumented immigrants arrived in the state after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. How, then, do California residents from Asia, Latin America, or Europe owe reparations to the current 6.5 percent of the state’s population that is African American?

    Are we to establish a precedent that those who never owned slaves in a society that has no memory of slavery are to redistribute billions of their dollars to those whose grandparents were never slaves?

    Three, in a multiethnic, multiracial California — where those identifying as white are a minority, and those of mixed ancestries number in the millions — how does the state adjudicate who owes what to whom?

    Is an arriving Mexican immigrant a victim of institutionalized racism in Mexico, or was he part of a Mexican establishment notorious for its racism? In a multiracial state, will we adopt ancient “one drop” Confederate race laws to determine whose DNA qualifies someone for state money?

    Should the state pay reparations to the descendants of Jews who fled the Holocaust, of Cambodians who fled Pol Pot’s reign of death, of Armenians who escaped Ottoman barbarity, or of Irish and Chinese who were worked to death on the Transcontinental Railroad?

    Four, how will borrowing money to pay some 2 million to 3 million of the state’s 40 million residents make things easier for the African-American population? And are multimillionaire state residents such as LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Beyoncé eligible?

    Did it mean nothing that trillions of dollars have been spent over the last half-century on anti-poverty programs, state entitlements, and diversity and inclusion programs?

    If per capita economic parity for the black population is truly the state’s concern, then why not allow more charter schools in California’s inner cities? Or deregulate the state’s cumbersome bureaucracy to give small businesses more opportunity and reduce resistance to building low-income housing?

    It is said that California fails because its wealthy elites virtue-signal their caring to square the circle of their own impotence to solve the problems in their midst. Californians who live in gated homes often damn walls on the border. Those who depend on imported water damn water transference for agriculture. Those who put their children in private academies damn public charter schools. And those who raise taxes on the middle class have tax experts to find ways of avoiding taxes.

    In that context, Assembly Bill 3121 can be understood — as a loud virtue signal to make up for failed responses to concrete crises.

    Victor Davis Hanson

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/10/californias-illogical-reparations-bill/

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  5. jcdurbant dit :

    DIVIDE AND CONQUER (An almost absurdist exercise in box-checking appeasement: From a pathway to deepening social integration, diversity has been redefined as an instrument of political struggle and despite the nominal idealism of multiculturalism, Biden’s early nomination of firsts looks like a diversity spoils system whose proliferating claimants will become impossible to satisfy)

    Does politics have a larger purpose than dividing power by multiple categories? Clevelanders got a truckload of coal dumped on them this holiday season when the city’s baseball team announced that after next year they will no longer be called the Indians. Owner Paul Dolan’s oxymoronic explanation is that this will “unify our community.” We had our say here several months ago about the inanity of team-name political correctness. How the White Sox and Red Sox survive is beyond me. More noteworthy in this country’s experience since the word multiculturalism entered its political dialogues is President-elect Joe Biden’s public commitment to filling his cabinet on the basis of diversity.

    It began as he might have hoped, with the press appending “first” before the names of early appointees—the first Hispanic head of homeland security, the first woman as Treasury secretary, the first African-American defense chief, the first Hispanic health secretary, the first openly gay cabinet secretary, the first woman of color to run the Office of Management and Budget, the first woman as director of national intelligence.

    The website HybridParenting.org explains that “in a multicultural world, people accept and embrace the differences of others into their lives.” That acceptance is the ideal. The Biden appointment process reminds us that diversity in practice is preponderantly political, which is to say, divisive.

    Shortly after Mr. Biden’s early nomination of firsts appeared, Politico reported that some Democrats were unhappy. Texas Rep. Vicente Gonzalez wanted at least five Latinos in cabinet-level positions. Then representatives of AAPI complained. AAPI stands for Asian-American and Pacific Islanders. They noted that Barack Obama’s cabinet had three Asian-Americans.

    Bel Leong-Hong, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee’s AAPI caucus, said, “We don’t see too many Asian-Americans there, do we?” As we went to press, it was reported that Mr. Biden’s interior secretary likely will be Native-American Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe on her mother’s side.

    Despite the nominal idealism of multiculturalism, this looks like a diversity spoils system, whose proliferating claimants will become impossible to satisfy.

    When the idea of multiculturalism emerged years ago, many saw it as a step toward extending the original American idea of openness to the new wave of non-European immigrants arriving from Asia and elsewhere. And indeed, the U.S. was evolving toward incorporating them, as it had before.

    Then multicultural diversity made its inevitable appearance in academia, which subdivided itself into departments of study based on ethnicity. The academics displaced the goal of incorporation with the idea of “differences.” Rather than a pathway to deepening social integration, diversity was redefined as an instrument of political struggle.

    Since late May, Black Lives Matter has become a proxy for diversity. BLM put in play the intraparty tensions evident in the criticism of Mr. Biden’s cabinet appointments.

    The media’s elevation of BLM and its notion of systemic racism made its political claims for black Americans pre-eminent and by default reduced those of Hispanics and Asians. Naturally they noticed. Now they are demanding what has come to be called equity in Mr. Biden’s cabinet.

    Several months ago, diversity reached a comic apotheosis when Trader Joe’s was criticized as racist for selling brands such as Trader José and Trader Ming. Some might see Trader Joe’s as the reductio ad absurdum of this movement’s political demands. The selection of the Biden cabinet, a serious matter, has become an almost absurdist exercise in box-checking appeasement.

    All politics may be local, but one may ask whether politics in our time has become overwhelmingly about apportioning power and money via these multiplying progressive categories or whether it still has a broader purpose.

    Mr. Biden’s 81 million votes and his presidency are undeniably an aggregation of diverse voters in the U.S., and yes, he tailored appeals to them. The question now is whether he or any American president should be able to assemble a government whose goal is to give the country the best possible execution of policy, or whether the presidency should be first of all a vessel through which competing factions receive appointment based on who or what they are.

    A pragmatic argument could be made that appointments by diversity aren’t much different than the old urban political machines, whose patronage kept the peace among factions. That is the benign explanation.

    A less benign view is that diversity has become most of all a weapon to silence opposition and suppress dissent. Political satire, one of history’s most effective weapons of opposition, including of the future first lady’s doctorate, is forbidden.

    Allowable criticism exists only inside the movement. So someone like Gen. Lloyd Austin, the African-American nominated by Mr. Biden to be defense secretary, is fair game because his personal status is subordinate to the larger political goal of devaluing the military. As happened as well to the black police chiefs forced out during the post-May 25 defund-the-police protests.

    Diversity has high intentions. But politics is a low art. Joe Biden’s presidency will be a revealing case study in trying to take the high road and the low road at the same time.

    Daniel Henninger

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-bidens-cabinet-of-diversity-11608161027

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  6. jcdurbant dit :

    DIVISER POUR MIEUX REGNER (Un exercice presque absurdiste de cochage de toutes les cases de la diversité pour ne heurter personne: D’un outil d’intégration sociale, la diversité est devenue un instrument de lutte politique et malgré le bel idéalisme de façade, la ribambelle de nominations de « premières » de Biden ressemblent fort à du bon vieux clientélisme, avec des prétendants toujours plus nombreux voués à une éternelle insatisfaction)

    https://www.courrierinternational.com/article/opinion-derriere-la-diversite-du-gouvernement-biden-un-parfum-de-clientelisme

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