"Neither Do They Spin..."
, beginning a series on conservative thought, considers one of the numerous paradoxes in the popular right-wing interpretation of Christian morality: the ability somehow to reconcile Jesus's example with a devotion to free markets uber alles
. The contradiction, Blue points out, is heightened by their rejection of a separation between church and state:
I had not said Christian morality is incompatible with free-market economics. Just that those who promote Jesus as the inspiration for American democracy and its laws, past, present and future have an obligation to demand that America's "Christian" government attend to "the least of these my brethren." Promoting laissez-faire capitalism instead is a pathetic substitute for practicing the gospel.
Separate church and state and their obligation goes away. But that is not American conservatism today. When pushed to defend themselves, many grassroots conservatives exhibit a tortured mix of “strict father” authoritarianism, righteous patriotism, and Ayn Rand’s morality of selfishness while brandishing a cross in defense of America's right to shop.
In short: you cannot simultaneously privatize Jesus's message while nationalizing Christianity.
In fairness, I don't think that all Christian conservatives reject the notion that a Christian government would be obligated to take an active role in helping the poor. But on a larger level, this is a serious conceptual problem for the conservative movement. And it only gets worse when you add in the crass militarism and xenophobia that sustain key parts of the movement.
I was raised Catholic, attending Mass in a parish whose pastor emphasized the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount. I remember being struck by the unalloyed radicalism of the New Testament, with its calls to leave your family behind, give all your possessions to the poor, and consider the lillies of the field. Our church sheltered Salvadoran asylum-seekers - a sin in the eyes of the Reagan administration, for how could there be legitimate political refugees from an American-backed regime? This was not a faith that brooked dodges or excuses: Christ's call was to face injustice with absolute and unarmed courage.
I'm not religious anymore, but I respect that radically counter-intuitive message. It's not a message that squares well with the political sophistication necessary to maintain the particular constellation of interests invested in the modern Republican party.
Labels: Christians, conservatives, Republicans, Undercover Blue