Saturday, March 23, 2019

Christian as Identity - Part II

The second divide is between high-culture and popular culture in what the people referenced in the tweet want to preserve and why. I am aware that the aspects of culture people are referring to are sometimes shallow, or inaccurate, or don't stand up to inspection.  In particular, they have less time-depth than popular culture imagines. Old-Time Religion is pretty new in the history of the church, largely a product of the frontier and early settlement cultures of westward expansion. I posted the "I Am An Englishman" video on this and two subsequent discussions last November. More recently James included a Chesterton quote in the comments, to the effect that a person fights to preserve a culture that is a thousand things he cannot even name, but would miss if they were gone.

If I am outdoors at the right time, I can sometimes hear the church bells about a mile away every evening, as I have for forty years. If that goes away my life will be just a touch poorer.  Yet these things do drop out, and other "traditions" slowly come in, so that things going away is also a repeated theme in American culture, at least. The autumnal melancholy we feel as things go away is also part of our culture.  It is easy to be dismissive of things, and I sometimes am.  I hope I have gotten better at that over the years. Obama was dismissive when he spoke of loving America in the same way that a Greek loves Greece. I will get back to how deeply wrong that is in a bit.

The intellectual and cultural reasons why one would identify as a Christian are harder to dismiss.  It is true that there is enormous effort to dismiss them at present (and I think I know why), but that doesn't mean it is sensible. Western Civilization grew up under the influence of Christianity.  It didn't grow up anywhere else. There has been an ongoing effort since the Enlightenment to maintain that the church actually impeded the development of Our Wonderful Selves, pointing to reason or science as the true cause, as if those were somehow historically separable from the church. We cannot rerun a simulation, so they can maintain it all they want, but we are not on all fours simply because I cannot rerun it either.  It did happen once, in particular circumstances.  I may have only n=1 for my experiment, but they have n=0. Also, all the wonderful things so taken for granted can be easily traced to Christian ideas, Bible verses.

None of that proves Christ rose from the dead and that Christianity is true.  But it does provide a solid core of facts tying Western Civ inextricably to the church.  As with the bumper sticker "Don't criticise farmers with your mouth full," we might say "Don't criticise Christianity with your rights on." In Western Civilisation, women have rights. We have some individual protection from despots. We can choose where we live, what we shall work at, how we shall spend our money.  That we even have prosperity is tied in.  Whether one credits technology more or institutions more, both grew up in the West.  Even if one says that Jews were disproportionately instrumental in the development, as I often note, it still remains that it kept happening even when they were oppressed or kicked out of a countries in the west. Slavery was outlawed - it then nastily reemerged, but was outlawed again. As with Chesterton writing about the culture the common man clings to, there are a thousand things that a thoughtful person can not even quickly bring to mind that are nonetheless part of it.  When a person speaks in a college auditorium condemning the culture they live in, they are allowed to do that.  In a college. Holding a microphone. To an audience of men, women, different tribes. With a life paid for by others. They can't actually point to much of anything in their lives that wasn't brought to them by Western Civ.

Yes, in dim history that was influenced by the Silk Road, and Persians.  So what?

Even hated British colonialism, with is real oppressions, usually left the colonised nation better off in prosperity, in health, in institutions, in rights, in technology - even after the Brits left.

When one asks the common American - even the stereotypically simple-minded one - what it is about our culture that they think is superior, the answer may be some inarticulate reference to freedom, or to religion. While it is seldom worthy of quoting and putting on a poster, it is nonetheless spot on. Clinging to your guns and religion turns out to be pretty important.  That was Obama's better-remembered insult about the culture of other Americans, but it ties in with his comment about the Greeks, which sounds so open-minded at first glance. There are reasons other than how fish is prepared, or what music they play, why one would prefer to live in America. It's pretty evil when an American president has to kick people for that, rather than articulate it more elegantly for them. One can harumph that these are merely things that we prefer because we grew up with them, but I think that most people would say freedom of religion is an entirely good thing that they don't have a mere emotional attachment to. Western women seem deeply attached to having rights.  They're just funny that way, I guess. Those other cultures must be equally valid.

So the high-culture/popular culture distinction also turns out to be less than expected. Why shouldn't people who identify as Christians largely from history, and its connection with Western Civilasation, have the culture they want?  They have good reason.  If one objects "Oh sure, they can do what they like as much as possible, but they shouldn't be allowed to interfere with the new cultures coming in," I ask Where does that value come from? The Japanese don't allow immigrants in to change their culture, nor do the Finns or the Swiss allow much. No one kicks them much for that. There are countries that would love to have more Americans come in and change their culture, but the Americans don't want to go there.

No, we only kick those countries that are actually doing the most of the allowing immigrants in and letting them have their culture. America does it all the time, as does Canada.  Those racist countries, you know.  When Jeremy McLellan sneers at English being upset because a few Muslims move into Luton, it's actually a lot more than a few.  It's a whole lot more than a few.

Here's the twist: I think I have established that within a system of individual rights, people are allowed to try to keep their culture.  If they think some residual Christianity is part of their culture and I wish they had something more solid than that, I don't have an American right to kick them over that, only a spiritual direction one. However, once we grant that, then we have to say that Obama has that right too, to advocate for his culture to be the American one. He has the Stuff White People Like/Stuff Educated Black People Like culture. There are plenty of Americans who prefer his vision. When one gets elected president, one does get a bigger microphone, too.

Oh yeah.  That means so does Trump. I didn't think of that until this minute.

I guess there will have to be a Part III.  These long series never work out half so well as I hoped.  It likely means I have not edited myself well.


Ron Liebermann said...

Identity is a difficult subject to discuss, but I think that the first element is "Persona." The persona of a Christian is comprised of what (in the psychology business) is known as the "Character and Reputation Scale". It is comprised of the five following elements: Honesty, Moral Courage, Friendliness, Loyalty, and Responsibility.

Christians try to embody these values by mixing optimism with discipline. So as you can see, there are perfectly good reasons to identify as a Christian. It means that you stand for something. Or at least it did. Unfortunately, the new Church teaches that Christ-like victim-hood is the ultimate accomplishment; and that good works won't get you into heaven. Only faith will.

This bunch of baloney was designed to make people think that the Church itself should not be held to any accountable standard. Nor should the government. Modern organized religion has turned into a complete fraud, with millions of dollars being spent on extravagant buildings, while homeless people sleep in the cold. Most priests and rabbis are more concerned with pure theory, and their own comfort, than they are with the practical problems facing society.

When is the last time you saw a Church that also was a homeless shelter?

Fixing this problem must first begin by getting the government completely out of the religion business. No more tax exemptions, no more grants, and no more restrictions on what a Priest may or may not be allowed to say. Right now, it is almost illegal for a Priest to criticize the government. He knows that he will lose his tax exempt status.

The next thing is to convert existing government buildings into housing for the indigent.
I can give you one example: I went to boot camp at Fort Knox. Fort Knox used to be a tank training school, but now it's not used for anything. But it's still open, at a cost to the taxpayer of 500 million dollars a year. It's the biggest white elephant imaginable. Fort Knox has hundreds of barracks that could be used to house as many as 10,000 people. It already has cafeterias, medical facilities, and everything that would be needed. But the military would rather see the base sit empty, than use it to house homeless people. Why?
For the same reason that Churches won't take care of the homeless. Pure Narcissism.

Military men, you see, are much too good to mix with regular society. In fact, they are all a bunch of "heroes" who should be worshiped; in spite of the fact that they don't do anything. You see, housing homeless people at Fort Knox would insult their purity. And so the story goes with thousands of military bases across the country. Many of them are nearly empty, and even more are half-empty. I say: Fill them up! The soldiers who usually spend all day watching T.V. can oversee the care and feeding of society's most needy people. It would be kind, moral, and would give all those heroes something practical to do.

Linda Fox said...

The idea of using already-in-existence military housing for homeless is an intriguing idea. Keep in mind that these are bare-bones facilities, often not in walking distance of shopping, schools, or work opportunities. But, interesting.

There are practical reasons why this wouldn't be a good idea:
- Many of the homeless are not compliant with society's norms - bathing, not using chemical stimulation, getting along with others, taking needed psych drugs properly, etc. This means that a fair amount of the time, someone will have to enforce these norms - if necessary, kicking the non-compliant out.
- There is a small sub-set of the homeless that just had bad luck. Most are where they are due to MANY bad decisions. Giving them a place to live doesn't change their tendency to do exactly the wrong thing in many situations.
- Putting the homeless in tax-provided housing will create a permanent underclass. Not to mention one more permanent entitlement.
- The now-housed population will have little incentive to change their lives. Like it or not, the discomfort of being "on the bum", as the old guys used to say, has been known to get people to clean up their act, if presented with SOME assistance.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Linda Fox. I have worked with a largely poor, often desperately poor population for forty years and have seen what you describe. Housing is the most difficult piece for people who have a consistent history of having the police called in or don't take care of a place.