Those Who Can See - Were you Assimilable?

10 posts

Bob Dylan Roof
Those Who Can See is an excellent visuals-oriented right wing blog that provides expositions on common "HBD" themes. The entry "Were you Assimilable?" covers some issues common to Salo, particularly the ethnic makeup of "white" America. I have not reproduced the entire post here out of deference to the blog's author, but I have selected some of the more interesting elements.

The original stock:




[ Note that the area with least civic involvement includes Chiaramonte, the dysfunctional southern Italian city famously profiled by Edward Banfield in The Moral Basis of a Backward Society - ED]


Bob Dylan Roof
Immigration and Crime



Abe de Ville
There is some truth to this claim, but it's idealism that doesn't take into account the political considerations of the day that allowed the Reformation to happen. Certainly the peasants of northern Europe found the doctrines of Protestantism alluring. But remember that Luther could have been killed prior to his missionary successes had he not had sympathizers among the aristocracy of Germany. Indeed, many of the Teutonic nobility saw in the rise of Protestantism an opportunity to rid themselves of the influence of Rome upon their soil. Outside of Germany, the story was similar - Henry VIII for instance was basically a Catholic who didn't like the Pope's interference in his marital aspirations. Also, Protestantism often was taken to extremes that don't much resemble liberalism like the hardline attitudes of Calvinists and Puritans or the bizarro utopianism of Anabaptism.

France is also partly Teutonic, and the Huguenots had a large following at one time - I think even that the French government would also have become Protestant but for the fact that precedent since the period of the Avignon Papacy was that the King of France got to decide who was nominated to the dioceses within his borders. I.e. the more absolutist French system allowed for more interference into the Church there, otherwise I have little doubt that they would have joined the bandwagon. The first Bourbon King was originally a Calvinist ...

Also, doctrines of political liberty owe as much to the French as to the Teutons but the French are seen above as separate/un-Teutonic - Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire and the like were very influential in the development of liberal thought. French thought may have been more influential to the theory and practice of the Founding Fathers than English thought (and was definitely more influential to them than the thought of Germans, Swedes, Dutch, or Scotch-Irish).

Sorry for the tangent, but the point: 1. Protestantism owes as much to political opportunism as it does to the spiritual orientation of the Teutonic races, 2. The origins of liberalism can't be as simplified as stated above.
Bob Dylan Roof

Good points. The historical relationship between the Reformation and classical liberalism is often overstated. Here is an old poast I wrote that buttresses your point


In the realm of politics, the original Protestant emphasis was not so much on the separation of church and state, as on resolving the duality between church and state -- either through Luther's two kingdoms approach, which saw church and state as complementary; through covenantal theocracy, ala Calvin/Zwingli, which united church and state; or through theocratic revolution, ala Thomas Muntzer, which did away with both church and state authority, seeking to replace them with prophetically-inspired popular despotism, akin to the rule of Israelite judges such as Gideon or Deborah.

Luther's two kingdoms doctrine is a political extension of the law/gospel distinction that is the cornerstone of Lutheran theology; the law imposes order and penalty and declares us guilty before the Lord, while the Gospel is the great 'nevertheless' that says: nevertheless, Christ saves guilty sinners. Likewise, the civil state punishes and restrains us, it declares criminals and performs the necessary acts of justice; the church, meanwhile, complements civil justice by offering mercy and spiritual refuge. Contrary to popular misunderstanding, while Luther did not quite exalt the law in the manner of Calvin and the later Reformed doctors, he did not exactly think it was totally useless, either. What the law cannot do is justify us. But the law can teach us (as a schoolmaster to Christ, Galatians 3:24), and we ought to do good works of the law as part of our sanctification. Luther did not seek to yoke church to state, not because he was an Erastian, but because the secular independence of the state made the light of forgiveness, offered by the equally independent church in response to civil justice, shine that much more brilliantly and purely. In Luther's view we see not so much a simple separation of church and state, as much as a complex interplay and dialectic which strengthens and underlines the proper roles of both.

Coming to Calvin, we turn to his infamous chapter on civil government in the Institutes ; although he states that "let us not therefore suppose that that vengeance is committed to us, to whom no command has been given but to obey and suffer," he then turns around and makes the claim that this only is the case for private men -- men appointed as 'popular magistrates', that is, as checks on the power of the king and the monarch's court, may take vengeance on the public's behalf; they may 'connive at' kings who have betrayed their duty as God's appointed civil guardians, which can be interpreted as plotting rebellion or assassination.

Calvin then proceeds with this:
Here we are given, for perhaps the first time, a theological justification for revolution. As Roland Boer writes in Political Grace: The Revolutionary Theology of John Calvin : "In the last chapter of the Institutes , Calvin ... lets the revolutionary cat out of the bag. Here it is a conjunction of both his theological position (all of us, rulers included, are fallen creatures and must obey God) and his high view of Scripture (it proceeds from the mouth of God and is not dependent on human beings). Against his better judgment, both make it perfectly clear that believers are not to obey ungodly rulers."

Zwingli, whose views on political order and covenantal theology profoundly influenced Calvin, was essentially a theocrat : "Zwingli ... held to a single sphere rather than to Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms. Zwingli argued that the elders of the New Testament were the equivalent of the magistrate of his day. The council of the Christian city thus rightfully ruled both the civil community and the church, which were virtually identical." Because the Reformed hold that there has only been one covenant, established by Abraham and transformed into a covenant of grace by Christ, there is also no law/Gospel distinction as in Lutheranism, therefore no 'two kingdoms'. The covenant outwardly marks out and unifies God's people, the community of God -- through rites such as baptism, for instance -- and as such, there is no need for any kind of extra-covenantal government which would belie or take away from that unity. God's rule in the covenant community is interpreted within the community by the elders, not by secular judges and rulers. Calvin would later put covenantal theocracy into practice in Geneva.

When we come to the Radical Reformation, things get really interesting. Most people regard the Anabaptists as peaceful peasants, but the Anabaptists only universally and confessionally adopted pacifism after the failed rebellions of Thomas Muntzer and Jan of Leiden, both of whom attempted to institute an apocalyptic, theocratic empire through violent revolution (in German, the period of Munster under Jan of Leiden is known as the 'Täuferreich', or 'baptist kingdom', which literally describes what the Anabaptist revolutionaries were attempting to establish). After these revolutions had been brutally suppressed, the Anabaptists learned their lesson, so to speak, and chose to withdraw rather than rebel -- here we truly find a turn toward the anti-political, in the form of a a quiet abstinence from the competition and aggrandizement of political life. The Amish exemplify this anti-political bent today.

Marxists are wrong to interpret Muntzer and others as proto-communists who merely adopted the religious vocabulary of their day; they were genuine believers who saw in the peasantry an energetic and radical faith that, if harnessed, could usher in a New Jerusalem -- the rule of God, unmediated by secular or churchly authorities and led by prophecy in the Holy Spirit. The leaders of the Munster rebellion fervently believed that their city would be the center of a worldwide theocracy, a belief so impervious to doubt that Johann Mathiesson, one of the local leaders of the rebellion, imagined himself to be a 16th century Gideon, and led a tragic counter-attack against Munster's besiegers with only 30 men under his command. Such fanaticism could only be religiously inspired.

From Carter Lindberg's The European Reformations :
Already we can see that historical Protestantism is far from 'un-political', nor do we find in it the claim that theology is be segregated from politics. To the contrary, Protestants integrated theology into politics in ways that were far more radical and thorough than Roman Catholic 'throne and altar' ideology. I may continue this subject later...

It may be useful to split this off into a separate thread, by the way.

Bob Dylan Roof

Very informative post, Mlad. I believe that Abe and I were referring more to the type of retrospective self-congratulatory statements made by 19th- and 20th-century Protestants who found in the libertarian frontier ethics of Americans a reflection of their own theology. The quote from Schmitt is, in fact, a response to Erik Peterson's argument that the trinity militated against any this-worldly political corollary to Christian theology (e.g., one God, one king), and that therefore Christian theology was necessarily apolitical in the sense that it could not provide structural or analogical legitimacy to any regime, contrary to the claims of Roman emperors, European absolutists, and Schmitt.

Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms seems worthy of a closer look on my part. The point I wanted to stress is that regardless of whether a theology claims to be compatible with any given regime, it will necessarily become political to the extent that it demands specific types of behavior from men. Claiming, as Luther did, that religion should not impinge upon the sphere of secular power amounted, in his historical context, to a political doctrine that had real effects on the secular power of the Church.

You called me a papist, or something to that effect, but my intent wasn't to defend Catholicism. The point is that theology will always be mobilized in the service of the state, or some form of politics.

In closing here, I'll note that it's possible Schmitt misread Peterson. Your post reminded me of a blogger who made such a claim. In discussing Schmitt's Political Theology II , the author notes:

Some of what Schmitt has to say is worth considering, especially about the relatively narrow compass of Peterson’s field of investigation. In other ways he seriously (willfully?) misconstrues Peterson’s intentions, which he represents as an attempt to create a safe, neutral space for theology and the Church to operate in – something that was utterly unacceptable to the author of The Concept of the Political, which had defined the political as “the total”, and had asserted that the effort to define what was and what was not “political” was in itself a political act. This is, as I say, a misrepresentation of Peterson’s intention. Far from claiming neutrality for the Church, he was asserting its superiority to the political sphere. If a religio-political category has to be framed for Erik Peterson, I suspect his sympathies were (in a way I hope more theoretical than real!) with the “activist monasticism” of the eleventh century Gregorian reformers of the papacy. That, at least, is one reading of his “politics”, insofar as there is one to be found, in the essays collected in Theological Tractates. Readers who doubt me are invited especially to ponder the final essay, Witness to the Truth, a Kierkegaardian meditation on martyrdom, the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel of John. It appears to deny legitimacy to any regime that does not recognize the (eschatological) kingship of Jesus Christ
President Camacho
Yes, this is a valid point. It also seems that the majority of Germans who wound up in east coast cities were Catholics from south and west Germany, whereas those who made it to the upper midwestern prarie states tended to be Lutherans from Northern (ie, Prussian) Germany.

But even among German Catholics the blood could not be denied: during Civil War-era nativist riots in Philadelphia, numerous Irish Catholic churches were torched or destroyed, whereas the German Catholic churches were spared-- the nativists clearly discerned in the Germans an inborn respect for command and obedience which manifested itself practically in the form of deeply pro-Union sympathies-- which the Irish emphatically did not share.

But the Upper Midwest with its overwhelming number of Lutheran (German and Scandinavian) immigrants became unique its own right. The upper midwest is the only part of America in which Spengler's "Prussian Socialism" has been manifested popularly in any real capacity. Eugene Debs of the Socialist Party won over 5% of the presidential vote in the elections of 1912 and 1920, with double-digit support throughout his power base in the upper midwest. And in 1924 Robert LaFollette of the similar Progressive Party became one of the last third party candidates to win a state when he took Wisconsin. (see also: "sewer socialism")

Like the German National Socialists, their staunchest supporters were Lutheran farmers, industrial workers, and craftsmen, and they were despised by both the marxists & anarchists (largely Jewish and Italian, respectively) based in Chicago and the East Coast WASP Establishment alike. The votes for midwestern socialism seem to have been quickly usurped by FDR's "New Deal".
Bob Dylan Roof
President Camacho

As much as I agree with singing the praises of the Holy Land (Midbest), I have to question your evaluation of our German stock. I'm not sure from where, specifically in Germany, they emigrated, but I do know that our Germans mostly descend from peasants and have a long history of social dysfunction. If they actually hail from Northeastern Germany, it's likely that they descend from the Eastern serf stuck that was bred for servitude and other bovine traits (much like the southern Europeans mentioned in my first post). As the J.R. Commons cite makes clear, Germans were underrepresented among exceptional Americans in the 19th century.

The Prussian socialism angle is interesting - please elaborate if you get a chance. I can't comment on whether it's an accurate analysis, having never read Spengler's paper; and I've always attributed the DFL/IWW popularity in the Midbest to the collectivist tendencies of the German peasantry.
Team Zissou

The American South really is different. There is however a narrow band of German Catholics in Georgia and Alabama and into Texas. Whatsizname from the Beer Barrel was in this group.

The Irish who settled in the Deep South often became Episcopalian, probably to enhance their social standing. IIRC, the O'Hara's in Gone With The Wind were Episcopalian. My mother's family included Irish who were staunch Episcopalians and settled in Savannah. I do not know if they were from Protestant Ireland. A not insignificant number stayed with the Roman Church, e.g., Flannery O'Connor's line.