Sunday, October 12, 2008

Is it over yet?

Like those Japanese holdouts from World War II who stayed the course right through the '40s and '50s, right-wing Anglicans continue to insist on fighting yesterday's battles tomorrow.

In case you've been hiding in the jungle for the last couple months or so, you should know that the last shreds of the ragged fabric of conservative ideology have unraveled, disintegrating spectacularly across the globe. Once upon a time Neoconservatism seemed compelling--can anyone after our five years in Iraq and Afganistan mouth neocon pieties with a straight face? And I still have relatives who self-identify as fiscal conservatives, though they are currently in a state of shock. I don't personally know anyone who follows fiscal conservatism out to its logical extreme--libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism--but there are a few high-profile examples out there on the radio and the internet. The Republican Party from Reagan forward--who remembers Nixon fixing prices?--has been happy to run huge deficits on principle, and that has always seemed to me sufficient to show that their fiscal conservative/libertarian rhetoric a la Buchanan, Tullock and von Mises was just for chumps, alot of chumps. Classical liberalism has long been dead.

Nevertheless, there are too many dead-enders with too much invested to abandon folly. Or, just as credit markets are said to be "frozen," we might say these secessionists are frozen, locked into their course.

What remains? Visceral, grumpy conservatism: paleocons, mashing together Burke with Kirk, social Darwinism and christianist fundamentalism, all with little regard for consistency--consistency which would lead to the already discredited neocon or classical liberal positions.

There are still consistent conservative positions available, yet to be tried: Carl Schmitt & Martin Heidegger might do in a pinch as the focus for new efforts willing to tacitly give up on Christianity's truth. I am impressed at how far the U.S. seems to have adopted Schmitt's point of view, as one can see in how our Executive Branch's powers have expanded in the War on Terror. But I do not think right-wing American voters are ready to embrace Schmitt/Heidegger openly. More likely: the right-wing elite embraces them, moving away from Strauss, while the elite's PR wing produces a front for their mass following consisiting of a jumble of grumpy, fiscal, and neocon positions. And from that quarter we will likely hear an intensification of calls to confront the Enemy for, say, defying "our" religion or "our" political values or "our" way of life.

I've made the point before that GAFCON's efforts are riddled with inconsistencies; there is nothing there to serve as a stable foundation for debate, much less a form of life. Likewise with the Southern Cone: Preludium makes the point that its reception of Schofield and Duncan generates internal inconsistencies. And so what? Like right-wing dead enders, Anglican dead enders have no remaining coherent ideology, Christian or otherwise. What we are dealing with in the Anglican Communion is power politics, Machiavelli writ large, or maybe "theologico-political realism" for lack of a better term. The end of realignment justifies the praxeis necessary to produce the relevant result, so the key is to work out the mechanics of how to get to realignment.

That is ironically the very thing Archbishop Williams probably detests most of all; yes--he detests liberalism in its various forms--political, classical, theological--but liberalism is rooted in realism as an attempt to move realism in an ethically circimscribed direction: not Hobbes' leviathan but Locke's polity, not mercantilism but Smith's mostly free markets, etc. The problem is that such ethical circumscription does not typically restore theological primacy. Williams likely did not see TEC's Global South critics in terms of machiavellian realism, at least until very recently. Sure, maybe the GS is actually rightly characterized as accepting theological primacy for the most part, and the problem is rather with Minns-primacy; I hear he was once a high-powered businessman well-placed in the world. Maybe he--and other American GS leaders--picked up machiavellian habits from long habituation to the "rules of power" in the marketplace. Who knows? Williams wanted to restore theological primacy, even before seeing it take a left-wing course; thus he was willing to work with the GS as long as it seemed they too accepted theological primacy, even if wishing it to take a right-wing course.

Now? We're waiting for Fort Worth, and perhaps others, to consummate their union with the ethos of machiavellian realism through performing the act, the act of schism. Won't be long now.

And what then? Preaching the Gospel and celebrating the Eucharist: what else? The Episcopal Church will have failed--this time--at containing competing factions within a common worship. Do you think the Church of England hasn't likewise failed? Remember the roundheads. More important than success at maintaining a common worship is fidelity to the effort. That may seem tragic, but it is not, since we are called to a common worship, to common prayer--e.g. it is not hubris. As awful as it may seem to say, our situation is not a tragedy at all, but more like a comedy, even a farce.


At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The complete fusion of your political ideology with your faith is quite disturbing. You need to read Greg Boyd's Myth of a Christian Nation.

At 12:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might help to just throw out some figures from that book. No one reads books just from their being suggested.

I do want to suggest, though, that there is nothing wrong with integrating Christianity with politics. Heck, Alvin Plantinga, Christian philosopher extraordinaire, as well as William Lane Craig, suggest to integrate Christianity with all disciplines.

If you want to see a good Christian try to integrate conservatism with Christianity, look at Francis Beckwith.

-Ben Z

At 11:22 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

The comment--"complete fusion of your political ideology with your faith"--is not at all far off. In truth I am still thinking through the relation of the political and the theological--and I owe a fuller account of their relation.

However, having said that, it seems to me indefensible to take the political and theological as distinct and disjoint realms. To the contrary, theology penetrates political at every point.

That does not imply that the Church should seek political power, much less adopt a Machiavellian ethos. One can instead adopt a Yoder-like position, or an Ellul-position, i.e. a critical political position with regard to the state.

The political's submersion in theology does not imply the Church should seek political power.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger JimB said...

I seem to recall the then archbishop of Wales describing himself as, "a hairy chested liberal." I can likely track down a cite if need be.

So, I have some issues with his detesting 'liberalism.' I suspect rather he detests egalitarianism. As long as the elites -- especially archbishops -- can execute liberalism as a form of nobleness, I suspect it is acceptible.



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