This is Your Society on Antithesis

Damon Linker explains:

Slightly (but just slightly) below the level of national politics, reverberations from news of Harvey Weinstein’s allegedly atrocious behavior with women over a span of several decades continued to radiate outward from the movie producer. Instead of a united front of disgust at the details revealed by the story that brought him down, reaction (of course!) split along partisan lines, with leading liberal and conservative writers denouncing one another for hypocrisy and double-standards (the easiest and laziest forms of moral denunciation). So the right accused the left of going easier on Weinstein than they had on conservatives Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly after similar behavior was alleged against them, and the left accused the right of precisely the opposite sin.

Every single event in our public life is now instantly swept up into the centrifugal whirlwind of a political culture in which the center has completely failed to hold. Democrats are increasingly defined by their hatred of Republicans, just as Republicans manage to agree about little besides their loathing of Democrats.

Isn’t this precisely what happens when culture is an outworking of ground motives, and when policy is part of the plan of salvation? Living in God’s two kingdoms sure looks more attractive. But it is not nearly as fulfilling or energizing.

5 thoughts on “This is Your Society on Antithesis

  1. If you replace the antithesis with a hybrid, then you can have it both ways at once. You can look down on it all from above, at least when you are talking about your time in church being taken up to heaven by the Holy Spirit. But, also in your time outside the church, as long as you leave Jesus out of it, on earth you can mock or even kill the enemies left of you and your particular magistrate.

    “Roper (Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet) tells of a career littered with violent enmities and broken friendships with trusted associates, including Luther’s mentor and confessor Johann von Staupitz and his colleague Andreas von Carlstadt—Luther denounced all those who crossed him as agents of Satan.

    p 223—The events in Wittenberg reveal what had become a pattern in Luther’s life. Time and again, though he might rail against them and insult them with surprising impudence, Luther in the end would always aligned himself with the authorities. The account first propagated by the Catholic side–that Karlstadt had engaged in subversive preaching, which has caused armed sedition—Luther now adopted as the official narrative of what had happened in Wittenberg. It was a convenient fiction for all sides, because it minimized the extent to which the council, leading reformers, and others had been actively involved in introducing the Reformation. In fact, until January, Melanchthon had taken a far more radical line than Karlstad, but someone had to be blamed. It is hard to resist the conclusion that Karlstadt was made a scapegoat.

    Jonathan Malesic, Secret Faith in the Public Square (2009)—“Can Christians be witnesses to the truths of the gospel in a land where being Christian is a form of social capital? What about when Christian identity has become a brand? American public life easily converts Christian identity into something which saves a culture. … When being a Christian is thought to be politically useful, the true purpose of being a member of the public known as a church has been lost.”


  2. Shadi Hamid understands:

    Trump’s actual policies have been a number of things: damaging, dishonorable, illiberal, and racist, but they have not been undemocratic. Making this distinction – difficult for Americans since constitutional liberalism and democracy have gone hand in hand – has never been more important.

    To take one example, modified versions of the January “Muslim ban” were bigoted and mean-spirited and counterproductive, but there was nothing intrinsically undemocratic about them. In other words, the president, like heads of government in any other country, has considerable leeway in deciding which non-citizens are permitted to enter the country. The rescinding of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows minors who entered the country illegally to stay, is cruel, but it is not undemocratic (particularly considering Trump campaigned explicitly on reversing it on “day one.”) To take this one step further, after reviewing Trump’s most controversial policy ideas – the ones that have been implemented and not merely mentioned in passing in unscripted campaign speeches – none of them can be deemed, strictly-speaking, undemocratic.

    In effect, what many Democrats would like, whether explicitly declared or privately hoped for, is the criminalization of behavior that the “smarter” or “rational” among us deem unacceptable, racist, or evil. But, the great thing, and sometimes the scariest thing, about democracy is that it explicitly allows people to be, well, evil, as long their “evil” is expressed within the the law. Democracy is not meant to protect us from other Americans we don’t like.

    Perceiving our fellow citizens, endowed with the same rights as the rest of us, as fundamentally “irrational” in a way that, in effect, excommunicates them from society, leads us toward other dangers. If they are deemed irredeemable, then we must search for explanations of how they became this way. As Alan Jacobs, author of “How to Think,” tells Emma Green here in The Atlantic: “Conspiracy theories tend to arise when you can’t think of any rational explanation for people believing or acting in a certain way. The more absurd you think your political or moral or spiritual opponents’ views are, the more likely you are to look for some explanation other than the simplest one, which is that they believe it’s true.”


  3. Antithesis is just so “fundamentalist”!

    Sometimes you kinda like fundies, but that’s only because you are looking down on fundies from somewhere far away where everybody knows it’s crazy not to kill for your country.

    It’s one thing to come out from the pope’s church but quite another to come out from the parish church mandated by your local magistrate. It’s one thing to segregate your killing to your vocation as a secular American (and away from your other kingdom, which is more important but private and spiritual.) It’s quite another to become a fundamentalist separatist who comes out from patriotism itself.

    Fundamentalists are simply not catholic enough to be effective historians. Even with second naivete…or sarcasm.

    The Reformed world needs fundies like Macarthur and Piper. Otherwise those who properly administer the sacraments will not be able to ‘wrap up” internal controversies about covenant “conditionality” . How could you possibly teach your children that it’s a legitimate vocation to kill, without your children first being in the covenant? And how could you possibly assure your children of “covenant love” if the covenant was equated with election and had no “gospel threats”?


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