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Old March 28th, 2014 #1
Alex Linder
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 45,378
Blog Entries: 34
Alex Linder
Default #1 Christianity Is 'Liberalism': The Elite WASP Mentality: Christo-Secularism

The religious roots of the elite liberal agenda

Today's liberal crusades are yesterday's Christian anxieties

By Michael Brendan Dougherty | March 27,

Where it all began.

For nearly 80 years, social critics of the Right and far Left have been trying to understand American liberalism by studying a specific social class. These critics share a belief that liberal ideas of a certain type dominate American life, and that they emerge from a social caste produced by American meritocracy. It's a class that sets the moral tone and imperatives for our society, that shapes our tastes and conversation.

One of the first attempts to dissect this tribe came from former Marxist turned conservative James Burnham, who theorized about an emerging "managerial class" that existed between capital and labor, and was made up of professionals, corporate executives, and executive administration officials. Like a good historical materialist, Burnham believed that material ambitions generated ideology. Using this as his guiding light, he hoped to understand and reveal the character of America's new elite, as well as determine what would happen to a country ruled by them.

In the 1960s and ’70s, neoconservative thinkers like Daniel Bell wrote about the "New Class," which was slightly less expansive in scope and focused mostly on professors and social scientists. A little later, the populist and left-leaning social historian Christopher Lasch wrote The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, slashing at the educated classes for abandoning socialist economics in favor of the politics of cultural revolution.

These theorists were offering a critique of the educated and liberal classes, with neoconservatives and socialists both lamenting the betrayal of older liberal ideas about the economy or about America's role in the world.

All three of these diverse theories have had a deep influence on modern conservative thinking in America. Many of my peers were influenced by Bell and Lasch, and I primarily by Burnham. But with the publication of Joseph Bottum's new collection, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, I wonder if these earlier thinkers haven't all been surpassed.

Bottum's thesis is that there really isn't a new American caste. This "class" that has outsize influence on America's moral and spiritual life is roughly the same class that has always had it: Mainline Protestants, only now without the doctrinal Protestantism or the churchgoing.

Of course, on one level, the startling truth about the past 50 years of American social life is the collapse of Mainline Protestantism. In 1965, more than 50 percent of Americans belonged to the country's historic Protestant congregations. Now less than 10 percent do, and that number continues to drop. But Mainline Protestantism long existed as a column of American society, able to support the American project and criticize it prophetically at the same time. It would be even more startling if the spiritual energies it captained, and the anxieties it defined, ceased to exist the moment people walked out the door.

In Bottum's revisionist account, Protestant preacher Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918) looms as the figure who most succinctly defined the spiritual mission of 20th-century Mainline Protestantism and its heirs. He put "social sins" at the front of the Mainline imagination. "The six social sins, Rauschenbusch announced, were bigotry, the arrogance of power, the corruption of justice for personal ends, the madness of the mob, militarism, and class contempt," Bottum writes. These six would fittingly describe an enemies list for liberals today: racists and homophobes, hedge-funders who claim to be victims, the Koch brothers, the Tea Party, Dick Cheney and the neocons, and the Koch brothers again.

Not all of Bottum's post-Protestants are directly descended from Mainline members. Jews, Catholics, and even atheists join this unofficial spiritual-but-not-religious tribe, just as before many Jews, Catholics, and nonbelievers joined Mainline churches as a way to signal their arrival in a new, important social class. For Bottum it isn't quite right to define these post-Protestants as an elite — many of them are not at all wealthy, and do not have direct social power. Instead, they are an "elect" class, so named because they seem to constitute a churchly class: moralistic, possessed of self-superiority, and drawn from across economic classes, a mingling of poor artists, middlebrow activists, and rich benefactors.

For Bottum, what is remarkable is the way the spiritual experience of Rauschenbusch's "social gospel" is so like the experience of modern liberalism. According to Rauschenbusch, one opposes these social sins through direct action, legislative amelioration, and simply recognizing their effect and sympathizing with their victims. Rauschenbusch wrote, "An experience of religion through the medium of solidaristic social feeling is an experience of unusually high ethical quality, akin to that of the prophets of the Bible."

The post-Protestants Bottum identifies have just that, "a social gospel, without the gospel. For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills. The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to experience, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob."

With the proper feeling comes a proper sense of guilt, and a missionary's zeal to correct wrongs. Over a century ago Rauschenbusch wrote, "If a man has drawn any religious feeling from Christ, his participation in the systematized oppression of civilization will, at least at times, seem an intolerable burden and guilt." Bottum deftly notes that in theological terms this signals "a nearly complete transfer of Christian fear and Christian assurance into a sensibility of the need for reform, a mysticism of the social order — the anxiety about salvation resolved by ecstatic transport into the feeling of social solidarity."

Can we not hear in the progressive's soul-searching examination of his own "privilege," as well as his unconscious participation in structural injustice, an echo of Rauschenbusch's words? Whereas Catholics make an examination of conscience before confession, and confess their personal sins before promising to amend their life, today's progressives examine their place in the social structure of oppression, and then vow to reform society. That is what it means to have a "social gospel without the gospel" — to be motivated by religious impulses, but believe it is entirely secular.

Bottum's theory also makes sense as theological-political genealogy. Rauschenbusch's main theological opponent was John Gresham Machen, a champion of Reformed Protestant theology, who founded Westminster Theological Seminary, one of the most important institutions informing conservative Evangelical life and thought. It makes sense that nearly 90 years later, conservative Evangelicals along with Catholics are still providing the lion's share of the moral and philosophical opposition to the heirs of this Mainline tradition. Then, as now, our political arguments are fed by a reservoir of religious and spiritual anxiety.

Besides providing an interpretive guide with great explanatory power for understanding modern American liberalism, Bottum's theory offers suggestions for further exploration. In an offhand way, Bottum notes that the more utopian and radically democratic impulses behind Occupy Wall Street would be recognized by any religiously literate age as those that lay behind the Radical Reformation. One can speculate that many of Occupy's members were once more-conventional liberals. Perhaps if the reformist impulses of our post-Mainline liberals continue to be frustrated, their spiritual longing for redemption will impel them toward radicalism as well.

Michael Brendan Dougherty is senior correspondent at He is the founder and editor of The Slurve, a newsletter about baseball. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Slate and The American Conservative.
Old March 28th, 2014 #2
Alex Linder
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 45,378
Blog Entries: 34
Alex Linder

John L Berry scientist57 • 16 hours ago
I do not understand why it has taken so long for the Literati to realize that all Liberalism is based on Christianity in general (for example, the Sermon on the Mount, as someone above quoted) and on the great movements of eighteenth and nineteenth Protestant Christianity in particular. It was the "Mainline Protestant" ("Nonconformists" in the UK) churches that spearheaded the abolition of slavery and child labor, that started the trade union movement, prohibition (for good or ill!), the extension of the suffrage, women's suffrage, reform of marriage, inheritance and divorce laws, recognition of the rights of minors and minorities, etc., etc. As was noted above, this was the Social Gospel, as opposed to today's Christian conservatives' narrow focus on individual salvation. In the mainline churches there is a new, radically liberal theology arising from very careful exegesis of the texts and a focus on the teaching and works of Jesus: this theology attempts to reconcile religion to science, and sees the attainment of the Kingdom of God here on Earth as the goal of the structural reform of our institutions and our minds. It seeks to be completely inclusive (the woman at the well), to value all people as equally human (the good Samaritan), and for the powerful to be servants of the powerless (the Centurion at Caesarea). At the moment this movement exists as small cells within larger churches, and sometimes feels unrealistic and futile, but I, personally, hope that it will eventually displace the worship of Mammon and His Prophet Adam Smith as presented in their bible The Invisible Hand and glorified in their many Temples to the Free Market.
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Old March 28th, 2014 #3
Senior Member
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But "mainline Protestants" don't have any influence anymore. They don't control the culture anymore. They don't control TV, radio, movies, music, newspapers, etc. MTV has more control over the culture than Protestant daddies do.

Old March 28th, 2014 #4
Sam Emerson
Diversity = White Genocide
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Sam Emerson

Originally Posted by Franco View Post
But "mainline Protestants" don't have any influence anymore. They don't control the culture anymore. They don't control TV, radio, movies, music, newspapers, etc. MTV has more control over the culture than Protestant daddies do.
But they let MTV become influential because it was promoting ideas they approved of, though MTV put a Jewish spin on it. Even as late as 1970 the Protestants could have rallied to anti-semite Richard Nixon's cause and regulated or censored the Jew media and brought the cultural revolution to heel.

They didn't because they were all for the revolution, and their remnants today provide an invaluable service to the Jews putting a white face on white genocide, and not contributing their still considerable financial resources to pro-white causes.

#1, christianity, liberalism


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