Samain Moon of the Winter Solstice
An interesting article in this morning’s Star-Tribune about the conflation of economics and religion, in particular laissez-faire economics (individualism) and Christianity as defined in William Buckley’s God and Man at Yale. The author of a biography of Buckley, Carl T. Bogus, also the writer of this column, identifies this conviction as a sentiment rather than an argument, that is, the United States must be as radically laissez-faire in its economics as it is pure in its Christianity, so orthodoxy conflates into orthopraxy, a recipe for political disaster.
Bogus sees these two sentences as central to GAMAY (as Buckley’s book is called by movement conservatives):
“I myself believe,” he declared, “that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.”
The effect of this framing is to create either/or, black and white analysis. Either you are Christian or you are not. Either you are a laissez-faire economics individualist or you are a communist/socialist collectivist. Either you are a Christian or you are an atheist. One side is good, the other bad.
Buckley was an Episcopalian and had definite opinions about the correct, or orthodox line of thought within Christendom, a bright line that defined his Episcopalianism over against diluted or deluded others. In the same way either you were a free-trader, a hands-off the individual para-libertarian or you were a collectivist, crushing the individual and the marvel of the free-market.
This splits the world, shattering the notion of a dialectic where individualism and collectivism, for example, exist as poles on a continuum, in dialogue with each other and informing each other. In dialectical thinking the world is more complex, more given to nuance, there may be times where collectivism makes more sense and others where individualism does. They are not, in dialectical thought, opposites, rather they represent dynamic forces always at work. In other words you can’t have one without the other.
Bogus helped me follow the trail from Buckley, who was well-known for his warm personal relationships with liberals, to Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Dick Cheney, evolution and climate-change deniers. This underlying either/or analysis of Buckley’s has devolved into a crusade the evils of secular humanism and government action in general, though especially government action designed to show our collective responsibility as citizens of one nation.
I’m not sure what trail we follow to get back from this place where heaven is Milton Friedman and hell is John Maynard Keynes, where heaven is right-wing Christian evangelicalisim and hell is any other way of understanding the world.
Orthodoxy helps clarify and simplify the world, leading to clear lines of ethical and moral thought. When orthodoxy makes the concomitant leap to orthopraxy, that is, practice must always be in line with orthodox belief, we find ourselves in the same spot as those with conservative Islam looming over them. Mullah Limbaugh and his fellow clerics, Ann Coulter and others of the shock jock circuit lash waverers back into line.