As if on order, the media supplied a perfect illustration of the connection, whose falseness does not remove its persuasiveness, between Christianity and victimary ideology:
Giants’ Sam Coonrod had every right to stand, but his reason fell short
Monte Poole NBC Sports BayArea Jul 24, 2020, 4:33 PM
Sam Coonrod stepped into the sightlines of America on Thursday night, when he alone stood during an intended unified peaceful protest. A light followed him around Friday, and might stay with him for a while.
All the Giants pitcher did was exercise the right that all Americans have, at least theoretically. Freedom of choice. The right for which millions of Americans fought, with many dying. For that reason, Coonrod’s decision to stand rather than join his kneeling manager and teammates during a pregame moment of unity at Dodger Stadium should be above criticism.
He did nothing wrong.
He said plenty wrong, though, offering up an explanation that slid off his tongue and went dribbling down his chest like liquid contradiction.
“I’m a Christian,” he said.
When did real Christianity opt out of humanity? Give a pass to injustice and inequality? Decide that it’s disrespectful to offer support, if not shelter, to those in need? Does Coonrod not realize that pastors of all faiths are joining crowds around the world fighting for these very ideals?
Like so many others swimming against the tide of progress, Coonrod pointed to the Black Lives Matter network, saying he “just can’t get on board” with some of its beliefs. Nothing wrong with that. Again, having such a choice is among the purposes of freedom.
But if Coonrod had taken a moment to inform himself, he would see motive behind this movement need not be affiliated with BLM but, rather, to bring greater awareness to the racial injustices that is its focus.
Ian Williams, NBC Sports Bay Area analyst and former 49ers defensive lineman, responded to Coonrod’s reasoning by calling BS on it.
“Let me make this clear,” Williams tweeted. “You don’t have to be on board with BLACK LIVES MATTER. But I do need you to be on board with EQUALITY FOR ALL and ENDING RACISM.
“It’s simple. If you don’t want those 2 simple things, you know what you are.”
Which is to imply Coonrod’s own interests are in conflict with protesting racial inequality.
See, one need not be a card-carrying BLM member to decry the obvious wrongness of America’s ways. That some perceive the desire for equality as a “political” statement says a lot about them.
It’s only political because some continue to place politics over the concept of humanity.
It’s only political because certain elements of government perceive protesters — not all of whom are faithful to every element of BLM — as terrorists who must be silenced, if not crushed.
See, what Coonrod did not say but surely crept into the minds of listeners and readers is that he believes the various evolutions of America’s two greatest sins — the other being stealing land from the natives — are acceptable. That equality is something for others to deal with.
That Christianity has, somehow, disqualified him from the cause.
There are only two rational explanations for what Coonrod said. One, he didn’t hear himself speak. Or, two, he heard every word he said and knows he did not say what he really meant.
If this piece does not strike fear into my reader’s heart, I don’t know what will. What I particularly want to point out is not the gratuitous vileness of “an explanation that slid off his tongue and went dribbling down his chest,” nor even the absurd extrapolation, backed up with words from a black footballer, that “Coonrod’s own interests are in conflict with protesting racial inequality,” but that his claim to be acting as a Christian is false and ignorant, if not deliberately hypocritical.
This is hardly a “grain of truth,” but no matter. The importance of this diatribe lies in the unchallengeable fact that it enunciates a position that its author has reason to believe will command the allegiance of a majority of “respectable” American opinion.
Which is to say that a sizeable fraction of those who either consider themselves Christians or consider the qualification of “Christian” a moral endorsement are, at the very least, willing to entertain the judgment that the action of not kneeling, although Coonrod’s undoubted right, was a sign of what is analyzed further down as condoning “America’s greatest sins” and believing that “equality is something for others to deal with.”
Just as with the other ideas and activities of the “woke,” what is important is not to reveal, as is hardly necessary, their absurdity and/or indecency, but to seek the source of their persuasiveness. How could “Christianity” come to be charged with demanding a demeaning act as a sign of belief in moral equality?
And once more, this document makes the answer clear: in its assertion of the “wrongness of American ways.” Where Jesus had merely opposed Caesar’s worldly kingdom to that of his Father, Poole explicitly asserts the ungodliness of American’s “almost chosen” people.
Whereas the founders of the original liberal democracies modeled their idea of the “nation” on the Old Testament, the ambition of these democracies to embody a “New Israel” is now fundamentally contested. The so-called “newspaper of record” has sponsored a project purporting to show that the original raison-d’être of the United States was slavery—and the gestures of propitiation that BLM has been exacting from the bearers of White Guilt are all grounded in this fundamental sense that, far from being an agent for the good, America is and will remain unworthy of our loyalty until such time—as cannot possibly ever occur—that it will have effaced its last trace of “racism,” along with the various other bigotries that the masters of resentment have conjured up for it.
Needless to say, I am not blaming the founders of Christianity for this “oversight.” My purpose is to diagnose the current ills of the Judeo-Christian West (from which Israel is by no means exempt), and to suggest, along with a number of others, such as Yoram Hazony (The Virtue of Nationalism, Basic Books, 2018), that the nation, which in my lifetime has gone from an object of fervent patriotism to one of contempt among its own elite, remains worthy of our loyalty, in the absence of which, our exercise of what purports to be moral judgment is no more than an expression of vicarious resentment.
In 2007, when I published The Scenic Imagination, I was able to view Hobbes’ notion of what Rousseau would later call the “social contract” as a positive step along the path to the originary hypothesis. Which it certainly was; but at the time, I would not have thought to point out the danger inherent in the presumption, manifestly false from an anthropological if not from a Judeo-Christian point of view, that the individual human being, the possessor of “soul” and language, pre-exists the human community as such.
Rousseau, writing after the anthropological imagination had been stimulated by a much greater acquaintanceship with surviving archaic societies, was astute enough to note in the Discours de l’origine de l’inégalité the paradoxical nature of the origin of language, but this question remains peripheral to his analysis of “society” in any form. The formation of what Rousseau calls la société commencée is both posterior to the acquisition of language (in the “state of nature”) and anterior to any form of what he would later call le contrat social, which is implicitly a product of the inégalité that he dates from the acquisition of private property (Le premier qui dit: ‘Ceci est à moi’), and which corresponds historically to the Neolithic Revolution and the beginnings of social hierarchy.
Rousseau’s exposition is intended not as history but as a clarification of the self-consciousness of the political community, understood as defined by a contract between its members and the State that exercises over it the power of sovereignty. In this context, rather than realizing (as could hardly be expected) that the separation provoked by Christianity between the spiritual and the earthly realms had been the source of the unique creativity of Western civilization, he views it as a handicap to political unity: la loi Chrétienne est au fond plus nuisible qu’utile à la forte constitution de l’Etat. [The law of Christianity is finally more deleterious than useful to the strong constitution of the State] (Du contrat social, 1762 edition, IV, 8: 307). Which, from the standpoint of Caesar’s empire, it certainly was.
The American Republic was created on principles similar to those enunciated by Rousseau, but on an unspoken (Judeo-)Christian foundation of “almost-chosenness,” which successfully outlasted the North-South divide and its Jim Crow remnants. Why then does it now appear to be succumbing to the forces of resentment?
Paradoxes can never be “grasped,” only remarked on. And they remain functional only to the extent that they are not remarked on otherwise than as supernatural revelations. (One might rewrite the entire history of humanity from this perspective.)
As we now see clearly, it is precisely the paradoxical structure of the Western church-state, spiritual-temporal relationship that led it to unleash the forces of modernity and “conquer the world.” But whatever illusions we may have nourished in 1989, the steady “canceling” of what had been until very recently implicitly guaranteed societal norms (quasi-universality of heterosexual marriage, illegality/clandestinity of abortion, drug use, pornography, and prostitution, interdiction of racial preferences, reverence for the Western cultural heritage and respect for its traditional religions) has led to an ever more frenzied search for systematic injustices as yet unsuspected—while the market system has continued to operate much as before.
From guaranteeing America’s status as the New Israel that is to lead us into a glorious future, the Christian ideal has been reduced to an imperative of worldly equality at once timeless and unachievable. The Judeo-Christian paradox is reduced to a sterile contradiction, like the “paradoxical state” in Pavlov’s dogs. Instead of operating with the assurance that virtue will be generally rewarded as the nation works to realize its historic goals, the (non-victimary) citizen, independently of his social contribution, can seek salvation only in unending penance for his irremediable complicity in victimization (“white privilege”).
This permanent state of moral disequilibrium has been sustained, with the complicity of minority politicians, by the perpetuation of the victimary status of stigmatized/sacralized identity groups, of which the blacks as bearers of the stigma and grace of slavery constitute the exemplary American model—one which, as the recent European “sympathy” riots have shown, has currency well beyond the USA. In exchange for the institutionalization of White Guilt and its compensation through targeted racial preferences, the overall structure of the social economy, including its other inherent inequalities, has been until now sustained at a modest cost, albeit with constantly increasing intolerance of truth-telling as the Emperor’s garments have been removed.
But the dependency of this system on the resentment of its “victims” has now begun to generate, under the added pressure of the pandemic, what risks becoming runaway instability. Even if the black community might still be satisfied with the trade-offs characteristic of what Dinesh D’Souza calls the “plantation” (see, e.g., Chronicle 637), the frustrated non-black youth that make up Antifa as well as a considerable contingent of BLM are happy to piggy-back on black victimhood under the benevolent aegis of Democratic mayors and police chiefs, committing spiritual and physical mayhem at virtually no cost. When someone refuses to bow—kneel—down, the text reproduced above gives a good idea of what he can expect.
A national community does not consist in a snapshot of its current membership, but above all in a collective desire for its own perpetuation. It must of necessity subordinate its respect for the moral model of reciprocity to the ethic that assures its continued flourishing. When Lincoln called the American people “almost chosen,” he was very much aware of our history of slavery. For it is the paradoxical dependence of moral equality on temporal inequality that permits the community’s survival as well as its eventual remediation of practices judged unjust.
But exclusive reliance on the epistemology of resentment rejects the moral/ethical paradox inherent in the disparity of temporal horizons: all past history is called to the bar of moral equality and found wanting, while future history becomes an empty abstraction. To define America by “the obvious wrongness of [its] ways” is very different from seeking to reduce the “almostness” that separates it from exemplarity.
Ultimately it is the loss, not of religion but of the communal will to survival that the original Spengler saw as the source of the death of civilizations, and that our contemporary “Spengler,” David P. Goldman, warns us of in his columns and in his book How Civilizations Die (Regnery, 2011).
Generative anthropology does not provide a recipe for restoring this will, but by providing a clear explanation of the process that is driving our “decline,” it makes it easier to conceive policies that might still be capable of reviving it among the general population.
To witness what, after our campuses and our media, our cities are now fast becoming should be incentive enough.