Thursday, July 7, 2011

Michael Lind and Julie Ingersoll on Triple Fundamentalisms Now Dominating the American Right

As the workday ends (in my part of the world), I don't want to miss the opportunity to make mention of a recent essay of Michael Lind at Salon, whose thesis Julie Ingersoll summarizes today at Religion Dispatches.*  It's about the three fundamentalisms now dominating the thinking of the American right.  Lind notes, as I did when I summarized Ross Douthat's response to marriage equality in New York recently, that American conservatism has long since lost sight of its traditional roots and is now controlled by a set of rigid lock-step ideological positions entirely antithetical to traditional conservatism.  In particular, American conservatism has abandoned its Burkean roots, and is driven by a miscellany of reflex fundamentalist responses to contemporary culture that align biblical fundamentalism with constitutional  and market fundamentalism.

Ingersoll picks up on the way in which biblical fundamentalism (derived from the increasing Southern evangelical presence that predominates in the Republican party) frames the other two forms of fundamentalism: it provides, if you will, the hermeneutic framework for the ideologies of reaction that are now determining everything the Republican party does and thinks.  

She writes,

I have long argued that the way in which conservatives like David Barton, and in fact the tea partiers in general, read the Constitution and US history parallels the way in which they read the Bible. And Yoni Applebaum at The Atlantic did so earlier this year, too. But Lind connects this observation to what he characterizes as market fundamentalism a la the Austrian School (like von Mises and Hayek) and Ayn Rand. I've written about that viewpoint here, but it's his framing as market fundamentalism conjoined with religious and constitutional fundamentalism that I find so helpful.

 It's interesting to read Lind and Ingersoll on Republican fundamentalism in tandem with what Andrew Sullivan noted yesterday at his Daily Dish blog, about the hard turn to the right taken by the Southern Baptist Convention in the latter part of the 20th century.  As I pointed out a few days back (citing my own personal and familial experience), and as Andrew Sullivan notes, in its most traditional forms, Baptist theology privileges "the supremacy of individual spiritual experience, individual conscience, and individual theological discernment."

The brittle authoritarianism (to borrow a phrase from Andrew Hamilton) and lock-step ideological conformity--the fundamentalism--that the SBC now imposes on its members (and which plays a significant role in the contemporary Republican party) has nothing at all much to do with what classic spokespersons of the Baptist tradition such as Roger Williams stood for.  And as Lind, Ingersoll, and Sullivan all suggest, the entire nation is now paying a considerable price as one of our two primary political parties seeks to make all of us dance to the tune of biblical, constitutional, and market fundamentalism.

These are three pieces worth a read, and they're illuminating to read side by side with each other.

(My apologies to readers that I am very slow both to blog these days, and to respond to comments on the blog--comments that I always appreciate.  I'm doing double duty these days writing a grant proposal and cooking meals for Steve and his brother, as they rebuild a portion of our leaky roof in the hot July sun.  When I'm home alone during the day, I normally grab a bite of cheese and a cracker for lunch, but since Steve and his brother Joe are doing such hard work in the summer heat and I'm not contributing to the work [you don't want to put a hammer and a drill in my hands], the least I can do is cook.

And grant proposal I'm writing for an organization, which brings us much-needed supplemental income, has a a short turn-around time and so keeps my nose to the grindstone as well.  As a result, I'm slow to get much posted here, and I apologize for the slowness.)

*And a big thank-you to Kathy Hughes for reminding me that I wanted to say something about the Lind essay this week.

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