America`s National Question Problem: Decaying Protestantism…

[Some readers took marked exception to Scott
McConnell`s suggestion that America`s current
immigration impasse is partly due to Jewish
immigration enthusiasm.  But hey,
VDARE is an Equal Opportunity ethnic slurrer. Now
it`s the Protestants` turn.]

WASHINGTON
(AP) – The new national GOP chairman had held office
only a few minutes Thursday before issuing his first
directive to members of the Republican National
Committee: Go visit leaders of minority communities,
and do it soon.

"How
many of you have talked to leaders of the
African-American community where you live?“ Virginia
Gov. Jim Gilmore asked Republicans at their winter
meeting here. About two-thirds raised their hands.
"How many of you have talked to leaders of the
Hispanic community where you live?“ About half raised
their hands.

"You
ought to go see them,“ he told the state Republican
chairmen, executive directors and committee members.
"We need to understand their concerns… help
combat the fear injected by the opposition party
…and listen.“ He asked for written reports on their
visits…

-        
By
Will Lester, January 18, 2001

Go
out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to
come in. – Luke xiii.23

A major
reason Republicans continue to jabber about outreach,
and are paralyzed in the face of America`s
developing immigration disaster, is what might be
called the politics of guilt. Having just finished a
book on this subject – tentatively titled Multiculturalism
And The Politics Of Guilt –
I am happy to share my
intensively researched observations.

The
dominant American Protestant culture is mistakenly
believed to be secularized and hedonistic. Neither
assumption is true except in a very qualified sense.
Most Americans are biblically illiterate and addicted
to a rising level of consumer comfort. But neither
condition contradicts other salient facts:
the vast majority of Americans consider themselves to
be orthodox Christians and attend church services at
least once a month.

The
questions that should be engaged are: what do
Protestant denominations understand as
“Christianity;” and what do worshippers take away
from sermons, which since the Reformation have been
the centerpiece of Protestant group worship. The
answers for the Protestant mainline, as documented by Thomas
Reeves
and George
Marsden
are feminism, gay rights, and the need to
atone for the Western Christian racist past.
Protestant mass publications like Christian
Century
push the same victimology. The more
Protestants become involved with organized
Christianity the more likely they are to absorb such
concerns.

It is,
moreover, misleading to believe that Evangelicals are
entirely free of such obsessions. From Southern
Baptists conventions apologizing for slavery to the
heads of Bible institutes bemoaning their schools`
segregationist pasts, social guilt flourishes on the
American Protestant Right. Alan
Wolfe
and Mark
Shibley
, two sociologists who have done relevant
studies, try to relate the cultural overlaps between
the Protestant mainline and Evangelicals to the rising
socioeconomic status of the latter. Traditionalist
Protestant theologian David
F. Wells
has stressed the loss of Reformation
theology as the reason for the straying Evangelicals.
But the result is the same in any case: American
Protestantism, which most Republicans profess in
varying degrees, encourages the compulsive and
remorseful outreach that has come to characterize
Republican electoral “strategy.”

This
politics of guilt can be found in Catholic countries
as well. But several differences should be pointed
out. The farther one gets from Anglophone Protestant
countries or from those that most resemble them, the
weaker becomes the receptiveness to multiculturalism,
Third World immigration and other expressions of
guilty conscience.

In
Italy, for example, prominent churchmen have warned
against the danger of allowing their country to be
overrun by Muslims. Such a gesture would be
inconceivable not only in the U. S. but also in
England. There Anglican and other Protestant leaders
vie with each other in expressing support not only for
further Third World immigration but also for the
successive extensions of the Race Relations Act first
passed in 1974. These are restrictions on what the
white majority population can say or do lest hostility
be aroused toward immigrant minorities. Advocating
limits on immigration can be and has been interpreted
to violate this periodically-tightened act. 

Unlike
religiously collectivist, sacramental Catholic
societies, Protestant ones stress individual
redemptive experience and giving witness thereto.
Confessions take place in American Protestantism,
going back to the Puritans and the Great Awakenings in
early America. But unlike the Catholic ritual, this
Protestant practice is done in public. It is a means
of showing the righteousness of the redeemed sinner
and underscores the power of divine grace in a fallen
world.

The core
Calvinist belief is that the world is divided into a
multitude of sinners and a small company of the elect.
This is also basic to any understanding of American
political attitudes. Such beliefs have contributed to
both the guilt and righteousness of American moralists
– the tendency of American elites to condemn their
civilization and heritage while exuding individual
moral arrogance; and their identification of goodness
with indulgence of non-Westerners and non-Christians. 

Thus
Hillary Clinton is not a self-described secular
liberal but a widely recognized Methodist, who, like
most Americans, regularly attends church services. Her
spiritual counselor H. Philip Wogaman, one of
America`s leading Protestant churchman and a
respected Christian ethicist. His autobiography, Eye
of the Storm
is devoted to his
quintessentially left-liberal views on tolerance and
social justice. Wogaman praises Hillary and Bill
Clinton for putting his “Christian” beliefs into
practice. Quite obviously, the Religious Right agenda
is not at all necessary to establish one`s
credentials as a thoughtful, serious Christian. Being
politically correct, of course, is. 

This
depiction of the politics of guilt and outreach as
American Protestant piety explains the development of
Republicans into the party of uneasy conscience. They
are not simply “stupid,” pace
Sam Francis`s immortal
anecdote
, but trying to act out religious
teachings. If the Presbyterians and Methodists are the
Republican Party at prayer, then Republican leaders,
though not necessarily all their voters, are
contemporary churchgoing Protestants reflecting their
religious culture. Like our Constitution, according to
liberals, American Protestant culture continues to
“grow,” i.e. decay.  The question is whether the nation-state that it created must
inevitably “grow,” i.e. decay, in the wake of its
passing.

Paul
Gottfried
  is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA.  He is the author of After
Liberalism
and
Carl
Schmitt: Politics and Theory
.

 

February 03, 2001