Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Religion and Politics in the South, Part 1 of 2

Juan Donoso Cortes, Marqués de Valdegamas in Spain in the 19th hundredyear and a very good conservative thinker, once wrote:

“In his Confessions of a Revolutionist Monsieur Proudhon has written these remarkable words: ‘It is wonderful how we ever stumble on theology in all our political questions!’ There is nothing here to cause surprise except the surprise of Monsieur Proudhon. Theology, inasmuch as it is the science of God, is the ocean which contains and embraces all sciences, as God is the ocean which contains and embraces all things.”

Source:  Fr Seraphim Rose, Orthodox Survival Course, ‘Lecture 8: Meaning of Revolution’, p. 129, http://tinyurl.com/h8uqu66, downloaded 12 Feb. 2017

There is a deep connection between theology and politics.  The latter will flow from the former.  So when there is a change in the one, we must expect to see a change in the other, too.

This is illustrated for us in Southern history. 

The first stage, in which hierarchical Anglican Christianity dominated, from the founding of Jamestown to the time of the First Great Awakening, was accompanied by hierarchy in political life as well.  Robert Beverley, writing in The History and Present State of Virginia, expressed the mindset of this time:

        But this is nothing, if compar'd to some other Passages of that unjust Representation, wherein they take upon them to describe the People of Virginia, to be both numerous and rich, of Republican Notions and Principles, such as ought to be corrected, and lower'd in time; and that now or never is the only Time to maintain the Queen's Prerogative, and put a Stop to those wrong pernicious Notions, which are improving daily, not only in Virginia, but in all Her Majesty's other Governments. A Frown now from Her Majesty, will do more than an Army hereafter, &c.

        With those inhuman Reflections do those Gentlemen afterwards introduce the Necessity of a standing Army, the Truth of which is equal to that of the precedent Paragraph. Thus are that loyal People privately, and basely misrepresented; because they struggle against the Oppression, which this Governour practices, in Contempt of Her Majesty's Instructions, and the Laws of the Country. But I challenge the Authors of that Memorial, to give one single Instance, wherein the Inhabitants of Virginia, have shown the least Want of Loyalty to the Queen, or the least Disaffection to England.

Source:  1705 edn., p. 104, © UNC Chapel Hill, 2006, http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/beverley/beverley.html, opened 18 April 2017

In the second stage, from the First Great Awakening to the reaction against the Abolitionists beginning in the 1820s, the strongly individualistic and egalitarian Evangelical Christianity that came to dominate the South likewise gave rise to a similar political system.  St George Tucker is a good spokesman for the ghost of this era in Dixie:

But the American revolution has formed a new epoch in the history of civil institutions . . . .  The world, for the first time since the annals of its inhabitants, saw an original written compact formed by the free and deliberate voices of individuals disposed to unite in the same social bonds; thus exhibiting a political phenomenon unknown to former ages . . . .  . . . that greater power from whom all authority, among us, is derived; to wit, the PEOPLE.

Source:  View of the Constitution of the United States: With Selected Writings, Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 1999, p. 19

In the third stage, the 1820s to 1865, the struggle to preserve the plantation system from Northern meddling, the Evangelical denominations made an accommodation with the hierarchical social system in which they found themselves.  A hybrid of the first two political systems therefore began to come into being.  The talented Presbyterian minister Robert Lewis Dabney put it in words this way:

…one must teach, with Moses, the Apostle Paul, John Hampden, Washington, George Mason, John C. Calhoun, and all that contemptible rabble of ‘old fogies,’ that political society is composed of ‘superiors, inferiors, and equals’; that while all these bear an equitable moral relation to each other, they have very different natural rights and duties; that just government is not founded on the consent of the individuals governed, but on the ordinance of God, and hence a share in the ruling franchise is not a natural right at all, but a privilege to be bestowed according to a wise discretion on a limited class having qualification to use it for the good of the whole; that the integers out of which the State is constituted are not individuals, but families represented in their parental heads; that every human being is born under authority (parental and civic) instead of being born ‘free’ in the licentious sense that liberty is each one’s privilege of doing what he chooses; that subordination, and not that license, is the natural state of all men; and that without such equitable distribution of different duties and rights among the classes naturally differing in condition, and subordination of some to others, and of all to the law, society is as impossible as is the existence of a house without distinction between the foundation stone and the cap-stones.

With the fall of the South to the North at the end of the War of Northern Aggression, slavery came to an end in the South and with it the last remnants of the old, pre-Modern Christian hierarchy.  For there is no real affinity between Evangelical Christianity and hierarchy, as Allen Tate noted in ‘Remarks on the Southern Religion’:  The Old South ‘was a feudal society without a feudal religion’ (I’ll Take My Stand, Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press, 2006, p. 166).  Without a religious foundation, the social structures of the Old South vanished for the most part like smoke in the wind.

So since that time, individualism, though attenuated by the inertia of a strong cultural past, has been the dominant ideology in the South.  This is beginning to bear baneful fruit.  A full 45% of Southerners polled in 2014 are now in favor of same-sex ‘marriage’ (46% opposing), and the percentage who say homosexuality should be accepted has risen from 40% in 2007 to 55% in 2014.  (All poll numbers from http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/region/south/, opened 18 April 2017.)  This has not yet caused much of a social change (so-called conservatives and moderates still outnumber so-called liberals by about 70% to 20%), but as the ideology of modern individualism, of ‘freedom from . . .’ rather than ‘belonging to . . .’ Church, kin group, gender, etc. (to use Alexander Dugin’s words), continues to grow stronger in the South, it will.  A land full of people who share Texas gal Maren Morris’s idea of religion (something akin to Rousseau’s religion of subjective feelings) is a society that will begin to unravel fairly quickly.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð!

Anathema to the Union!

No comments:

Post a Comment