OCALA, Fla., June 26, 2014 — On Tuesday, Mississippi’s Thad Cochran stunned the world by retaining his U.S. Senate seat in a primary that was vicious even by modern standards.
His win, which came about through ethically questionable means, has incensed the Tea Party. Cochran relied mainly on Democratic, or at least Democratic-leaning, voters for support in an open primary. It has been said that if only Republicans were able to select a nominee for this fall’s general election, Cochran would have lost to firebrand State Senator Chris McDaniel.
Placing all of this aside, what sort of future do ultraconservative voters have in the GOP? These are the folks who made up McDaniel’s grassroots; people who are not just fiscal, but stalwart social rightists. They also are next-to-uniformly fundamentalist Christian.
Throughout Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Paul Gottfried and I had a lengthy discussion about what might become of our country’s conservative movement.
Gottfried is an outspoken paleoconservative intellectual and the recently retired Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Lancaster’s Elizabethtown College. His observations of the human condition have generated both accolades and animosity. Having befriended such figures as Richard Nixon and Herbert Marcuse, the Doctor’s views are not always easy to pin down. Perhaps the only constant is that he calls the shots as he sees them — with no apology.
Hopefully, our conversation will provide some answers about why contemporary conservatism is on the skids. Alternatively, more questions than conclusions might be found. Who knows?
Dr. Paul Gottfried: I think it may be irrelevant what the GOP does on abortion and gay rights. It is doomed at the federal level because non-WASPs identify with the other party, which is non-white-Protestant. The only hope I see for the Right (not the hopelessly compromised GOP) is the possibility of creating a white Christian majority party. This will obviously depend on controlling Third world immigration, which makes the task of building a genuine Right that much more difficult. A major obstacle is of course the GOP, which continues to restrain and disarm anyserious opposition on the right.
Joseph F. Cotto: If any party of the center-right, let alone European-style isolationist right, is going to do well, it will have to be somewhat secular in character. This is because the overwhelming majority of modern-day Christian denominations, from the Roman Catholic Church to mainline Lutherans, are in favor of atrocities like unchecked immigration and welfare statism.
When one thinks about it, Christianity is an inherently left-wing religious system. This extends from Jesus Christ, the ultimate hippie of his day, if he did indeed exist, to Paul (nee Saul) who supposedly began evangelizing so that all social and personal inequalities would be absolved through faith in JC alone. Judaism, on the other hand, is far more adept to political conservatism, yet in America, at least, this is not reflected in voting trends. Talk about irony.
Gottfried: I agree partly with your argument but not entirely. Christianity is more egalitarian than most other religions and very inconveniently has part of the godhead dying on a cross in order to atone for our sins (what an abominable way for the ruler of the universe to behave!). But there is also a lot more nobility and theological depth in Jesus and Paul than in any of the Rabbinic glosses I’ve encountered. And I would rather be dealing with Christians than Orthodox Jews, who lived in a very insular culture, if I’m trying to organize a right-wing movement. Please keep in mind that Christians up until a few generations ago were not as nutty as they’ve since become.
Cotto: I can understand what you’re talking about with regard to Jesus and Paul. The problem, speaking strictly in terms of contemporary politics, is that J&P’s value system leads to emotionalist leftism. This, in turn, brings about militant leftism, which fosters a totalitarian state pushing political correctness or else. Of course, there are millions of Christians who twist New Testament doctrine to meet their secular right-leaning interests. Even they become brazenly emotional about issues like abortion and biological heredity; issues which it is in their material best interest to take a different view on. This self-defeatism speaks to the intense passion of Christianity in general.
Said passion is derived from Christianity’s appeal to emotion at the direct expense of reason. A good Christian’s life will be devoted entirely to Jesus, who is said to grant this person eternal life after his or her earthly demise. In a de facto sense, this means that our individual forsakes living life to its fullest in order to find happiness after death. Considering such a thing, it should come as no surprise that Christianity appealed to poor and socially marginalized populations until the Roman Empire, in search of societal cohesion, abandoned its traditional polytheism for what became Catholicism.
More existential religions, such as Hinduism (Which has a great many problems in it own right, but none similar to Christianity’s dilemma), Buddhism, Jainism, the Baha’i Faith, Zoroastrianism, and, of course, Judaism balk at this sort of thing. While members of these religions are likelier to be leftish than the typical American Christian, the beliefs of each bode better for coherent conservatism. The reason for this, in my view, is simple: Christianity forsakes this world for the next, while the other religions focus on this world above all else.
How can you really focus on conserving anything if, according to your life philosophy, none of it matters when all is said and done?
Gottfried: Although on a very theoretical level I agree with what you’ve said, the historic reality is very different. Protestant Christianity was in the forefront of the industrial revolution, the creation of bourgeois constitutional societies, like the American Republic, and the spread of literacy throughout the world. An earlier Western civilization was largely the work of the Catholic Church, which was supportive of political consolidation, international law and Western expansion. For an otherworldly religion, Christianity seems to have been remarkably preoccupied with conditions in this life. .This has been far more the case than one finds among Jainists, Buddhists or Hindus.
Cotto: Keen observations all around. I was hoping you would bring up Protestantism and its impact on our society. With Lutheranism and the religions which grew out of this, we find an unparalleled focus on the individual and his or her relationship with the divine. It seems obvious that this was an attempt to bring reason to Christian teachings. Even though Protestantism hasn’t always been a bowl of cherries, Martin Luther was a principal figure in the upward mobility of humankind. There should be a national holiday in his honor, no doubt.
The variant of Christianity I admire most is Calvinism. Its emphasis on predestination was brought about, from my perspective, at least, as a means of explaining how and why people differ from one another. That some are said to be damned from birth, while others are meant to ascend toward God’s hands, seems an early method of accounting for biological heredity’s impact on human actions and relationships. To this extent, John Calvin is the forefather of public interest regarding the genetic sciences.
One can base a conservative movement on Calvinism specifically, but this probably wouldn’t work too well for non-Calvinists. When someone believes God has ordained him or her to greatness rather than the next fellow, a sense of self-righteousness, if not arrogance, is likely. Imagine people with this mindset influencing the lives of others as a public officeholder in a state built upon the preservation of Calvinist principles. Such a state would become oppressive after none too long. Still, to have Calvinism prevalent in a secular society appears very good. Its basic principles serve as a wake-up call to Christian denominations which are less focused on the existential.
Moving along to Roman Catholicism, that is by far and away the most intriguing and, needless to mention, powerful of all Christian denominations. Essentially, it is an interpretation of the New Testament synthesized for medieval European life. The rituals and social customs of the RCC mimic, if not mirror, those of old world royalty. Of course, as this world was based on feudalism, individualism and its natural economic byproduct, capitalism, are looked down upon, if not combated outright. As the times have changed, the RCC has continued its feudal model. This leaves the nations it dominates with a very wealthy, though just as small, corporatist class and throngs of hungry mouths which often go unfed.
In light of the RCC opposing contraception for this underclass, birthrates are high even in the face of little opportunity for future generations; including secular education. This works well for the RCC as it has a continually expanding base with few prospects of exposure to different belief systems. A great deal of the pittances earned by this underclass will be donated to the RCC, thanks to its guilt-centric theology. So, the RCC’s membership structure couldn’t be more self-sustaining. Superstition is far more widespread than in Protestant nations, which is a result of the aforementioned synthesizing; the RCC adopted many pagan tendencies of the nations which converted to it.
Aside from all this, the RCC is resolutely Vatican-centric for its own interests, yet globalist in other regards. So building an American-interests-first conservative movement on its principles is a sure path to defeat.
You mentioned that “(f)or an otherworldly religion, Christianity seems to have been remarkably preoccupied with conditions in this life”. This is absolutely true. It is due to various individuals and groups selectively interpreting Christian doctrines in a manner which fulfills material needs. Intellectual, nationalistic approaches to this are fading, though. Nowadays, the New Testament is used by many denominations to promote a message which essentially boils down to syrupy open-borders, multiculturalist socialism masked by the cross. More or less, it is merging of the first and third worlds in the name of “Don’t worry, it’ll all be okay because we’re saved by Jesus”.
The less said about root causes of this self-annihilating mindset, the better.