Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Religious Wars

"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."

--Linus, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

We live. We die. We cope with death, each in our own way. I am not a serene person, so I like serenity. I like Norman Davies, Britain's pre-eminent historian of Europe, and his definition of serenity:
Serenity is the balance between good and bad, life and death, horrors and pleasures. Life is, as it were, defined by death. If there wasn't death of things, then there wouldn't be any life to celebrate.
Religion helps us cope with death, and celebrate life. We aren’t alone. We are part of something bigger; something is there to support us.

Because humans need religion, it’s been present from the beginning, helping, celebrating, providing a path to a meaningful life.  It’s there today, in science-believing secularists’ worship of the environment.

And from the dawn of civilization, the power structure, politics, has exploited religion for its own purposes. The priesthood above. The masses below.

It’s important to me that Jared Diamond, in his Guns, Germs, and Steel-searing insight into politics as kleptocracy, considered one of the four key tools leaders use to retain power to be creating a religion that justifies kleptocracy.

A force as important as religion inevitably generates its own counterforce, in the thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialectic. New religions tend to arise from among the people in reaction to the perverted, top-down religion imposed by kleptocratic leaders.

So we’ve had Roman emperor-gods to Christianity to imperial Christianity and the 1000-year “Age of Faith” in Europe countered by Islam elsewhere then by the Protestant Reformation’s 1517-1688 two centuries of warfare to the rise of science to the status of a religion to the un- or anti-science 19th and 20th century religious awakenings to U.S. urban secularism’s response to Protestant/Republican era Babbittry to the 1960s final overthrow of organized religion—TIME’s “Is God Dead?” (1966).

James Taranto, in the conservative Wall Street Journal, writes about “a fascinating essay” by Jeffrey Lord for the American Spectator's website. Lord attributes Democrats' problems with the white masses to a cultural shift that took place after JFK's assassination. Lord quotes Robert Caro, the biographer of Kennedy’s successor:
The New Frontiersmen--casual, elegant, understated, in love with their own sophistication . . .--were a witty bunch, and wit does better when it has a target to aim at, and the huge, lumbering figure of Lyndon Johnson, with his carefully buttoned-up suits and slicked-down hair, his bellowing speeches and extravagant, awkward gestures, made an inevitable target. . . . When he mispronounced 'hors d'oeuvres' as 'whore doves,' the mistake was all over Georgetown in what seemed an instant.
Lord said Kennedy himself had a healthy respect for the American people and for Johnson. But after his assassination, "the attitude toward Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson that was evidenced by Kennedy's liberal leaning staff, by the Washington Georgetown set, by Washington journalists-- seeped into the sinews of liberalism itself":
Slowly this contempt for the American people spread to institutions that were not government, manifesting itself in a thousand different ways. It infected the media, academe and Hollywood, where stars identified with middle-America like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball were eclipsed in the spotlight by leftists like Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda.
In our new, hip culture, it became respectable to diss the white American majority, or more precisely, its white males along with their spouses, who in American small towns, as President Obama said, bitterly “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them.”

So here we are in 2012, where as conservative columnist Mona Charen writes,
we reached a grim milestone: The majority of births to women under the age of 30 are now outside of marriage. Among blacks, 72% of births are to unmarried women. And while some unmarried mothers go on to marry the fathers of their babies, it's rare in the African-American community, where only 31% of couples are married (In 1960, it was 61%). . . A full 85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes, as do 80% of rapists, 71% of high school dropouts. . .90% of the change in the violent crime rate between 1973 and 1995 was traceable to the rise of illegitimate births. A large sample looking at students in 315 classrooms in 11 cities concluded that "The single most important variable (in 'gang centrality') is the family's structure ...: the greater the number of parents in the household, the lower the reported gang centrality."
In the Atlantic Monthly, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead wrote that the "relationship (between single-parent families and crime) is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature."
We need religion. We need the structured, two-adult families that religion supports. So says Charles Murray, in his Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. Many others endorse the need for values that come from within—discipline, hard work, postponement of gratification, optimism, belief in self—values supported by religion.

These values aren’t conservative alone, but while liberals tend to practice them for themselves, they encourage dependency rather than self-reliance among those they privately believe to be unfortunate inferiors—Democrats’ entitlement constituents of minorities, unmarried women, dependent youth, and the elderly.

Isn’t that the point to where our religious wars have evolved in 2012—self-reliance supported by religion or dependency on big government?


MeiMei said...

I enjoyed the first half of your article. However, African-Americans tend to be Christian, yet that is the community where you cite the decline in marriage. I also do not see a desire for government to support the poor as anti-religious, but rather the most fundamental Christian value of all!

Galen Fox said...

Thank you for your comment. There are certainly African Americans and others of faith having children out of wedlock. But faith does help couples commit first to each other, and then to raise children in a loving environment that encourages the children to take responsibility for their futures.

It's hard to see how a government program does this. Government seems more about easing the pain, less about transformation. Think of faith's role in making 12-step programs work; it's why government supports people of faith running such programs.

Galen Fox said...

The following excerpt is from an earlier post about Charles Murray's work on the breakdown of the American family:

"Heather Wilhelm. . . is struck by how committed Murray is to moving life beyond materialism:

"'If we ask what are the domains through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life -- achieve happiness,' Murray writes, 'the answer is that there are just four: Family, vocation, community, and faith.' The advancement of the welfare state, he argues, results in the slow gutting of these domains, as well as personal responsibility, which are 'the institutions through which people live satisfying lives.' This cultural disintegration has had a disastrous human cost for the working class.

"Wilhelm seems to agree with Murray’s jaundiced take on the upper class. She quotes him writing, 'the new upper class . . . don't mind the drift toward the European model, because paying taxes is a cheap price for a quiet conscience -- much cheaper than actually having to get involved in the lives of their fellow citizens.'"

Money isn't the solution. The solution is values, something that comes from the wider culture, not something government can buy with our taxes.

Galen Fox said...

Here's the link to the excerpt above: