Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Is the Islamist threat the new abortion?

Beliefnet’s Steve Waldman wonders whether Rudy Giuliani’s steadfastness on the threat from the Islamofascists is the key to his continuing relatively strong support from rank-and-file conservative Christians. Rod Dreher agrees.

I kinda do, too, but not precisely for the reasons they suggest. First of all, I don’t think abortion and other life issues have gone away, supplanted by the challenges coming out of caves in Waziristan. To say that presumes an incapacity on the part of some people (those simple-minded evangelicals, I guess) to care about more than one issue or challenge at a time, and to weigh a variety of competing considerations.

Second, I don’t think that all people who identify themselves as conservative Christians have only one identity or view the world only through one lens. (That’s largely the preserve of fanatics and theory-besotted intellectuals.) Most folks I know wear crosses and wave flags, so to speak, and many of them can tell the difference between the two. Many of them also know that politics and poltiical considerations are not identical with religious concerns, that we’re in the process of electing a commander-in-chief, not a preacher or pastor. And they know that politics offers a range of flawed human choices, which, come to think of it, makes it no different from every other arena of life in this world.

Discussions - 19 Comments

"Second, I don’t think that all people who identify themselves as conservative Christians have only one identity or view the world only through one lens. (That’s largely the preserve of fanatics and theory-besotted intellectuals.)"

Agreed, and this is an incredible problem in thinking about just about anything is it not? Because in order to come up with the topology "conservative" or the topology "christian" we assume a certain amount of exclusivity. Theoretically there are a lot of positions that would be contradictory and mutually exclusive. As it turns out there are Muslim women who eat bacon, wear bikini's, drive BMW's, and live in LA. I might argue that there are Hedonists who do the same. Some of the Hedonists might even be christians!

That is why as a theory-besoted fool I have decided that attempting to ascribe a topology to anyone is just about as useless as taking a submarine with screen doors on a deep sea voyage. Then thanks to your posts I decided that the problem is easily fixed by a single topology: Polytheism. At any given moment an american is likely to be thinking along any number of different lines of thought, or according to any of a wide variety of lenses. Americans are guided by a wide range of Gods, contradictions are thus easily explained away a person to whom a certain topology was ascribed to was simply thinking and acting according to a different topology...at one point a Lockeian at another point a Christian at another point as a father and at another point as someone who was really hungry or maybe even really tired.

Moreover various gods can share the throne of reason concurrently: a person can be lead to certain considerations from being a father from being a christian from being a republican from being from Ohio from being Tired and from being hungry simultaneously each with a varying degree of pull.

Beliefnet’s Steve Waldman wonders whether Rudy Giuliani’s steadfastness on the threat from the Islamofascists is the key to his continuing relatively strong support from rank-and-file conservative Christians.

What exactly IS Rudy Giuliani's position on the the threat from the Islamofascists, and how does it differ from anyone else running for President?

The belief that he is some sort of anti-Islamofascist attack dog seems to be a myth. He has no history of ever doing anything about them, or even of displaying any interest in them.

I wonder how much of this is even based on any real evidence. The last polls I saw showed that plenty of GOP voters didn't know what Giuliani thought about abortion. (But I'm very much open to correction on this). But *if* it's true, I think I'm a bit less sanguine here. If pro-life evangelicals (to just take one group) are willing to vote for Giuliani despite his impeccable pro-choice views (whatever his attempts to soften them) it seems entirely plausible that they think of Giuliani as the biggest anti-Islamist guy out there. Romney has been a bit squishy on Iraq. But perhaps also it's Giuliani's record as mayor of NYC that's in play as well - maybe evangelicals are attracted to him as a law-and-order guy?

perhaps also it's Giuliani's record as mayor of NYC that's in play as well

Given his record, I doubt that very much. But it may be that the perception of his record as mayor of NYC is fooling people.

Giuliani talks a good game on the culture of personal responsibility, which, I think, also sounds good to the people with whom I go to church.

Everyone knows the difference between the cross and the American flag, although some people of course can articulate it better. What is perhaps harder to see -- and perhaps more important -- is what the cross and the American flag have in common. Which I would argue is a great deal. Conservatives would do better to think about this. It strikes me as more productive than telling the religious not to idolize politics. While there is a danger of this, it is more theoretical than real, at this time especially. The greater danger is the tendency among many religious folk to run away from politics, or to navel-gaze in the name of "principle."

Religious folk I know are quite lost, in political terms, as I have mentioned elsewhere on the blog. I do not think they are "running away", but are trying to sort out how to land in a principled way in the current field of candidates. The religious really cannot help but bring their religion to politics as it simply part of their sensibility. Those sensibilities do include both the flag and the cross - maybe picture the flagpole that American flag is waving from topped by a cross.

Islamic terrorism is very evidently a threat and so is that sensibility that sees abortion as a choice. Yet,
Christians are accustomed to think of abortion as something of political compromise. The other, well, how do you compromise with that? If we lose there, the worry is, I think, that we might finally get to have abortion made illegal, but at a cost no one on the religious right would be willing to pay.

Bottom line, Kate: Many of the people you describe (and I know there ARE many of them) need to wake up and smell the coffee. Improving the Republican party is a long-term project. Defeating Hillary needs to happen now.

John, are you suggesting the adoption of an overt polytheism, where we attempt to believe there really are multiple supernatural deities at work? Or are you suggesting that people should just accept more openly the different things that compete for rule in a person's life, God simply being one of them?

Frankly, I'm at a complete loss to picture the first ever really happening. And while I agree people do allow other things to assume the role as ruler of their lives, I'm not sure simply abandoning ourselves to that is really the best thing for us. It might make it easier to explain things, but I'd argue it doesn't make our lives better.

I haven't heard any of those folks mention Hillary as a possibility. I have said it before, most people know that if a Democrat wins, there is no hope for movement on the abortion issue. A Republican politician might be moved on the topic for practical political reasons, being awake and smelling that coffee for themselves.

John, are you suggesting the adoption of an overt polytheism

I'm saying that we live in a polytheistic world. We don't have to "adapt" anything, simply acknowledge the world as it is.

But I suppose nobody here is actually suggesting that we convert the world to [insert religion here]. (I hope not, but I may be wrong.)

The question then becomes "should the individual countries of the world be polytheistic"? (Or multi-cultural, same difference.)

I'm inclined to say No myself. But this is a question for the Ashbrook crowd. Should countries in general, and America in particular, be monotheistic?

To give my own answer first, I belive in "monotheism in one country", with the understanding that different religions will be practised in different parts of the world.

Islam is a monotheistic religion in that it believes in a single, omnipotent, benevolent deity. If they're unacceptable, then are Jews? Catholics? Mormons? Jehovah's Witnesses? Scientologists?

John, I think Don's question was directed at me. In any case you agree with me that we live in a polytheistic world...of course no one can argue with that in the simplest fashion.

Don, by Monotheism I mean belief in One God. By belief in one God I mean that this one God rules in our lives. That this God sits upon the throne of reason and that all our actions are justified by and reflect that God rules in our lives. I am saying that if you are a montheist then it should be apparent by your actions choices, decisions and life.

I am argueing that there are very few Monotheistic americans. That Americans are polytheistic. When I say that Americans are polytheistic I don't have to mean that they believe that multiple dieties actually exist, in fact I think an atheist could be polytheistic. That is to say that that which sits upon the throne of reason, that which directs his views of Good and Evil, is subject to change. At one moment Mammon may sit on the throne which is to say that his chief concerns are wealth. At another moment Dionysus could sit on the throne. In other words human beings are guided by a wide variety of interests, a wide variety of standards. Christians have a clever way of getting around this problem by explaining it away as sin, when in fact it is simply an impartial submission to a single God. Christians who "sin" alot just have a hard time admitting that they are actually Polytheistic. Of course people are usually Monotheistically dominant...but human beings are also natural disemblers to the extent that it is hard to know if they are honest with themselves or others concerning that which rules them.

"Or are you suggesting that people should just accept more openly the different things that compete for rule in a person's life, God simply being one of them?" This is the right way of putting the question, and I am not sure how to answer the "should" part of it polytheistically, all "should" type questions are monotheistic. I am saying that the things that compete for rule in a person's life are other Gods, other idols, The Christian God among christians being presumably dominant...The Conservative aspect being dominant among conservatives and the liberal dominant among liberals.

In any case this is somewhat of a digression. In my opinion Rudy Guiliani is clearly a polytheist, and America is clearly a nation of polytheists. Europe is also polytheistic. Western Civilization is polytheistic. It could be that human nature is polytheistic. So to answer Dr. Moser, of course Islam is acceptable to western civilization as are Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's witnesses and Scientologists.

The question is the threat to Western Civilization from Islam, and whether or not Islamo-fascism is real or immagined. The problem with Islam and in particular Wahhabi versions of it is essentially violent towards the polytheism of the West and America. Submission to Allah means Allah is to sit on the throne of reason uncontested at all times.

The question is whether or not people in the middle east are muslim in the sense articulated by the clerics, or if there is something natural about polytheism that prevents these people from submitting to Allah completly. In other words the threat of Islamo-fascism really depends upon the extent to which you believe people can submit to a monotheistic God.

It may be the case that evangelical christians in the United States are more monotheistic, more christian than their polytheistic bretheren, and are thus more acutely aware of the tension between secular polytheistic modernity and Monotheism, thus they are more willing to believe that Muslims will be swept up by the Wahhabi doctrine of Islamic/Monotheistic purism, and more willing to believe that Radical Muslim groups exist that wish to kill us and destroy us.

On the other hand it may be that the more secular polytheists are so certain of the opinion that man is naturally polytheistic that they cannot envision a human being who was exclusively Wahhabi. Thus like Dr. Moser they are quick to point out that many monotheistic religions exist in harmony with western civilization and that Islam can as well. Of course you can be Muslim and American and Homosexual and eat bacon...really? Can I be catholic, but go to a baptist church, drink whiskey, visit whore houses in Vegas, swear to my hearts content, drive a ferrari, and tithe 2%? Why not son, this is america!

A lot of ambiguity here.

Joseph Knippenberg said, or implied, that it is a defect of conservatism that it is comfortable with polytheism.

Now we see John Moser seeming to argue that polytheism is a good thing. Or at least not a bad thing. Do you people ever talk to each other?

It's really quite simple, John. You seem to be defining "monotheism" as religious homogeneity. Well, we haven't had that for nearly 200 years. I want you to tell us plainly what religions count as "American," and which don't.

More evasion from John Moser.

Where does Ashbrook stand on the question of polytheism? It's not that hard a question, surely. Joe Knippenberg thinks it a failing of conservatism that it can accomodate multiple gods, and I've seen similar sentiments on Claremont.


I want you to tell us plainly what religions count as "Israeli," and which don't.

I don't live in Israel, John, I live in America. Quit trying to change the subject.

Too many "Johns" in this room! :-)

There is no question that people are prone to idolatry. It's been that way since Genesis 3:6.

There is no question that most Christians who profess to having Christ as sovereign ruler of their lives do, in fact, allow other things to intrude in that area. Obsession with political outcome being one such thing.

I think it reasonable to say that the polytheist -- that being defined as the person who does not strain against the urge to have many idols in their lives -- find it easier to go about life.

What I'm not sure of is whether it is best that those who truly wish to serve God set aside His call to keep Him first in their lives. That's an abandonment of principle. Sure, it's convenient. But I'm not sure it's best.

I don't live in Israel, John, I live in America.

Why?


Quit trying to change the subject

Your delusions of grandur are noted, but you don't get to define the subject. Answer my question.

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