Posted by Peter Lawler
That’s REASON’s view of the accidental genealogy of the alleged great cultural convergence of our time.
I don't think equating the drug-induced faith of the power of man to the fire and brimstone faith of G-d is appropriate or even correct.
The point is--and this is why the article is correct--God doesn't really talk to us. People rather tell us what they think God wants us to hear. And we tend, quite naturally, to be skeptical to these sorts of claims.
A fine and memorable essay. Not a bad bead on the 60s, and it's true that you can't understand what evangelicalism in the 70s and 80s was like without seeing it as tapping into a bewildered and often repentant reaction against the counter-culture, but as also tapping into the new cache of "radical thinking" and "commitment" that the counter-culture had made respectable.
But from this evangelical conservative's perspective, this fine essay is the work of the enemy, plain and simple. Sorry, John. This is the same guy that wrote the "liberaltarian" articles, right? I tell you, American conservatives (i.e., informed patriots) have nothing, NOTHING, to fear as much as the (plausible) possibility that Mr. Lindsey's vision of what the American center is will catch on. And it might, because it seems to describe where many Americans really are. The day American leftists say, "Nah, I really don't care about the poor or economics," and American rightists say, "Nah, I really don't have any serious respect for Judeo-Christian religion," is the day of American DOOM.
So, no, I can't say my reactions will be all that objective.
But I will try. Consider this passage from the piece, (which shows that Lindsey has read folks like David Chappell) arguing that the religious nature of CR movement directly inspired the New Left. "...to steel themselves for the struggle, African Americans called on sources of strength more profound than Gunnar Myrdal–style social science empiricism.
...Black churches were therefore indispensable ...because the simple, powerful faith they propounded gave ordinary people the heart to do extraordinary things." Thus, he says, "For America’s liberal-minded young, the prophetic grandeur of the civil rights movement was electrifying. Many joined the movement; many more were inspired to take up other causes and make their own stands. 'Without the civil rights movement, the beat and Old Left and bohemian enclaves would not have opened into a revived politics,'concluded Todd Gitlin, a leader of Students for a Democratic Society..."
But think about this. Did not France and England have their peculiar counter-cultural moments around the 60s and 70s too (despite their advanced decadence cc. w/ the US)? Foucault and friends seemed perfectly capable of indulging in "electrified" or (Gitlin's happy-face-term:) "revived" politics with virtually no inspiration from either a significant race problem or a religious undercurrent. Somehow, "over there," the Old Lefties and Marxisant-Freudo-Heideggerian types, beat or not, didn't need what was needed here. That is, fantasizing for a moment that Reconstruction never goes sour, so that Jim Crow law never really gets off the ground, so that no Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s is necessary, we STILL would have had the New Left. My fantasy is just that, but my take on the essentials of the New Left is sound. Indeed, if Lindsey is right about affluence provoking irrational quests Progressivist/Pantheist, and Conservative/Christian, than I have to be right about this.
And think further. By Lindsey's account, the Progressivist Aquarians get jazzed by Old Time Religionists from the black churches, but their main opponent over the course of the long culture-war aftermath of the 60s turns out to be another set of Old Time Religionists. Of course, one can surely show that from the 70s on the key leadership in the black churches has radically accomdated progressivist thinking, but the oddity (for Lindsey's schema, that is) of the original 50s and early 60s scence remains.
Try another: by his account, evangelicalism of the last fifty or so years is a reaction to a) affluence, and b) the counter-culture liberalism such affluence causes. Well, what about earlier Christian revivals? Azusa Street in 1906? Billy Sunday? Camp meetings in the 1820s?
I'm not entirely sure what my objections amount to, but doesn't it overal seem that the inescapably Christian landscape of American culture is slighted by his account? And where's the consideration of the role of liberalism and democracy? Do they just get to be the results of reason? Is it the same with this thing called "capitalism," a term that libertarians too often use unquestionably, without noting its provenance from Marxist theory?
One last thought for now: is the conservative movement of the past fifty years, as distinct from the libertarian movement that in certain ways has been interwoven with it, defined by an infusion of evangelical passion, troops, and mindset? Or gee, weren't those concerns about God and Man at Yale prior to the evangelical response to the 60s? Or didn't Barry Goldwater have a conservative conscience way back in the early 60s , that while perhaps shorn of Biblical references, said that the "laws of God, and of nature, have no dateline." Gee, I wonder where he could have gotten such an idea from? Again, my question has to do with how one DEFINES contemporary American conservatism.
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