Twilight of the WASPS, Slippery Slopes

by John Holbo on August 14, 2012

Bit quiet around here and I’m totally swamped, man. But here’s my one thought, after the Ryan nomination. There are no WASPS on either ticket, either for President or VP. Also, there are no WASPS on the Supreme Court. Also, the Speaker of the House is a Catholic and the Senate Majority Leader is a Mormon. It’s a political commonplace that it’s pretty damn crazy that a black man named Barack Hussein Obama got elected President. But suppose you went back in time – set the Wayback Machine for ‘Best and the Brightest’ – so you could listen to all the botheration about Kennedy running for President. Suppose you could just interject: ‘dudes, dudes, in just 50 years, a Mormon and a Black man will be duking it out for President, and that’ll be a big deal, granted. But there will be no WASPS whatsoever at the absolute top of the political system, and people won’t even notice. Get over it.’

In other news, I was recently rereading Anscombe on contraception. And really it’s just a Dan Savage column, with modus tollens in for modus ponens at every second sentence. If contraception is ok, then we are obviously thinking about sex and love in a way that makes gay marriage ok. (Obviously it’s also less fun to read than a Dan Savage column, but not as much less fun as you’d think.)

And I was recently rereading James Fitzjames Stephens, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Stephens is obviously the ‘conservative’, rebutting Mill, the ‘liberal’. But in a lot of ways their positions don’t track contemporary notions. For example, Stephens is very opposed to the state tolerating lots of little heterodox churches. No. The state should do its best to figure out which one is best and sponsor it. (Theological spin on industrial policy and ‘picking winners’.) The proof, offered in passing: anything else and you’ll end up having to tolerate Mormonism. Which is obviously not on.

The world does turn.

{ 181 comments }

1

LFC 08.14.12 at 1:49 am

Re no WASPS on Sup Ct: true, but I just had an e-mail exchange with a friend who maintained that Breyer is socially/culturally more WASP than Jewish. Fwiw.

Btw, Ben Alpers at the USIH blog beat you to this whole no-WASP thing. Plus his post had a Thomas Nast cartoon, which you don’t.

2

ben w 08.14.12 at 2:01 am

(Obviously it’s also less fun to read than a Dan Savage column, but not as much less fun as you’d think.)

On the one hand, in many cases, reading Anscombe is hella fun. On the other hand, I have deliberately avoided reading her on contraception, so.

3

Jeet Heer 08.14.12 at 2:04 am

“Writing as a Roman Catholic, Anscombe offers a penetrating moral analysis of marriage and sexuality that will benefit any reader who rejects the secularist reduction of marriage as merely a union that sanctions sexual activity between partners.”
Um, I’m a secularist and I don’t think of marriage as “merely a union that sanctions sexual activity between partners.” In fact, I’m pretty sure virtually no one things that.

4

bianca steele 08.14.12 at 2:08 am

What is “secularism” even supposed to mean there? It’s pretty easy to imagine teenagers saying “we’d like to engage in sexual activity, but our religion says only marriage sanctions it, so let’s get married,” but what is especially secular about that?

5

Orange 08.14.12 at 2:08 am

“People won’t even notice”? I’ll bet the white supremacists have taken acute notice of the waning hegemony of the WASPs.

6

misterxroboto 08.14.12 at 2:16 am

lest we forget, Eric Cantor is Jewish and Nancy Pelosi is Catholic.

7

Neil 08.14.12 at 2:19 am

Yes, because we secularists believe that you can only have sex if you’re married.

8

LFC 08.14.12 at 2:21 am

What is “secularist” even supposed to mean there?

yes, ill-chosen word. ‘Instrumental’ seems to be what was intended…

9

bianca steele 08.14.12 at 2:35 am

The proof, offered in passing: anything else and you’ll end up having to tolerate Mormonism.

Does Stephens just mean, by this, something like “the Americans do it the way Mill suggests and look where they got?”

10

otto 08.14.12 at 2:39 am

It’s an interesting time in that way. There’s no assault whatsoever on the privilege of mass affluent suburbanites, or on the very rich, so the bastions of US conservatism are just fine, but the ethnic religious mix at the top of the political institutions is becoming much more diverse.

11

John Holbo 08.14.12 at 2:51 am

“A Thomas Nast cartoon, which you don’t.”

I (probably) have one (somewhere). But it’s a secret!

“Writing as a Roman Catholic, Anscombe offers a penetrating moral analysis of marriage and sexuality that will benefit any reader who rejects the secularist reduction of marriage as merely a union that sanctions sexual activity between partners.”

Anscombe herself is a bit more sophisticated than her advertisers, in this instance.

“Does Stephens just mean, by this, something like “the Americans do it the way Mill suggests and look where they got?””

I think he is assuming – rightly – that the Americans, like everyone else except Mormons, would accept any argument that concludes ‘Mormonism is tolerable’ as a reductio. After all, anti-Mormonism was a staple of American politics in the 19th Century. Denouncing Mormons was great sport in Presidential politics for decades.

12

John Holbo 08.14.12 at 2:53 am

By ‘assuming rightly’ I don’t mean that Stephens was right that Mormonism is intolerable, just that he was right that no one except Mormons and J.S. Mill thought it was, in principle, tolerable. Obviously Mill is committed to tolerating Mormonism. Stephens is really trying to find a reductio on Mill.

13

FredR 08.14.12 at 2:55 am

What Mill explicitly defends in ‘On Liberty’ is the legalization of Mormon polygamy. For now, that still seems to be ‘a reductio’.

14

indian 08.14.12 at 2:59 am

Why isn’t Romney a wasp? I am catholic and mormons seem like just another little protestant sect-not sure why they are different than 7th day adventists, christian science, baptists, etc. in terms of being protestants.

15

bianca steele 08.14.12 at 3:00 am

John:
Should there be a negative inserted into that sentence somewhere?

I guess to be tactful we should assume Stephen knew the Mormons weren’t actually being tolerated in the US at the time (and that I did–which I didn’t remember, actually). But whether or not he did seems like an interesting question that might repay research; I wonder if he didn’t, if the fact that they existed wouldn’t have been quite bad enough. It sounds like he wouldn’t have thought much about, say, the Second Great Awakening, either (and might have presumed it also arose from some prominent failing that England had presumably so far avoided).

16

Doctor Memory 08.14.12 at 3:02 am

A reductio, but perhaps not ad absurdem. It’s not difficult to imagine that in 2042 the Mormon church, having been comprehensively defeated on same-sex marriage, will be successfully leading the charge for the legalization of multi-partner marriage. (Come that day, we’ll have a few well-earned chuckles about strange bedfellows, and then merrily accept their support.)

17

Matt 08.14.12 at 3:03 am

I think that to understand Stephens, you need to think more than most philosophers do about the context of the time. Think of Matthew Arnold, and how he thought that one of the most serious things holding back Great Brittan was the mass of “dissenters” who refused to be folded into the mainstream culture, and that this in turn made the UK culturally backwards, philistine, etc. Both Stephens and Arnold were “liberals” of the time of a sort, and this involved thinking that the “dissenters” were keeping the country backwards. (If you want an analogy, imagine modern liberals who think that Louisiana really ought not be able to run its schools according to whatever the local born-again church thinks. Given that there wasn’t really universal state education at the time in the UK, and given that education was done by the local churches in most cases, you can see how this worried people like Arnold and Stephens.) (It’s also not completely clear that Mill thought that Mormons should be tolerated- he at least had very significant worries.)

As for finding Anscombe “fun”, just imagine her spending time protesting outside abortion clinics (which she did quite a bit) while reading her, and the “fun” goes right away.

18

indian 08.14.12 at 3:04 am

19

Jamie 08.14.12 at 3:09 am

As a secular, atheist nihilist, I could only read up through part two of Ansecombe’s tract before needing to convince a nun, bugger a Baptist and the rub one off in the closet.*

I follow the point, of course, but to whom is she actually speaking?

*man, I wish my life were as exciting as anti-contraception crusaders’ apparently are.

20

John Holbo 08.14.12 at 3:09 am

“For now, that still seems to be ‘a reductio’.”

Sorry, because it’s wrong to defend polygamy?

“Should there be a negative inserted into that sentence somewhere?”

Which sentence?

“I guess to be tactful we should assume Stephens knew the Mormons weren’t actually being tolerated in the US at the time (and that I did—which I didn’t remember, actually).”

I’m not sure how tact comes into it, one way or another, but I think it’s reasonble to assume that Stephens, if he knew what Mormonism was, knew that it wasn’t really tolerated in the US. It’s a pretty central fact. If someone knows about x at all, one presumes they know about the most salient facts about x. Although of course there are odd cases to the contrary.

I am absolutely sure that Stephens would not have thought much of the Second Great Awakening. To think well of it would have required giving up his whole philosophy, which people are generally loath to do.

21

nick s 08.14.12 at 3:11 am

there will be no WASPS whatsoever at the absolute top of the political system, and people won’t even notice.

That depends on how you define the political system, and I don’t say that with tinfoil draped around my noggin. Haven’t the upper echelons of the remaining WASP establishment decided that they won’t dirty their hands with the messy business of elected (or appointed) office, but will hire people to do it for them?

22

bjk 08.14.12 at 3:11 am

Jeet Heer:
“I’m a secularist and I don’t think of marriage as “merely a union that sanctions sexual activity between partners.” In fact, I’m pretty sure virtually no one things that.”

Kant (via Zizek): marriage is “the contract between two adults of the opposite sex about the mutual use of each other’s sexual organs”

23

John Holbo 08.14.12 at 3:14 am

“Why isn’t Romney a wasp? I am catholic and mormons seem like just another little protestant sect”

Historically, Protestant non-Mormons haven’t thought so. And Mormons don’t actually regard themselves as Protestants, although it seems to me not unreasonable to classify them as such, on genealogical grounds.

24

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 3:16 am

WASP is not the dominant ethnic group; white came to be the dominant “ethno-racial” identity. There is a lot of historical work on the making of whiteness as a cultural and dominant form of identity; the state makes it official by its census categories, and data on social inequalities are specified in terms of race. We don’t for example hear about whether Silician American test scores are lower or higher than Irish American test scores. But we hear a lot about racial difference. It’s been years since I read the work of scholars such as Noel Ignatiev, David Roediger, Matthew Jacobson, and Desmond King.
So the Republican Party is led by white people and appeals to people as white people. Barack Obama was able to win the last election not by really doing better with white women or white working class voters or white students but by raising the black turnout and by winning back a large Latino majority and turning out Latinos in great numbers. This is according to Harvard’s Steve Ansolobhere.

25

indian 08.14.12 at 3:27 am

Right, I think the normal intra-christian divide is into catholic, orthodox and protestant christians. On that basis, Mormons are protestant. Getting more into it is too weird for a basically secular society like the USA, I think.
There are similar debates in India as to whether say Jains and Sikhs are Hindu. The Indian constitution says they are. Probably makes sense because Hiinduism is very broad and includes even indian-born atheistic threads.

26

John Holbo 08.14.12 at 3:33 am

“I think the normal intra-christian divide is into catholic, orthodox and protestant christians. On that basis, Mormons are protestant.”

But normal – i.e. typical – intra-christian debate hasn’t regarded Mormons as protestant, on this basis. Mormonism has typically been regarded, in intra-christian debate, as a non-christian cult. So it isn’t really right to suggest that you can base a categorization of what sort of Christianity Mormonism is on a classification that has presumed that the question is ill-formed.

Nor have Mormons generally pushed back by trying to argue for acceptance as just another Protestant sect. If they had done that, the case for classifying them as Protestants would be stronger. (I am perfectly happy to classify them as such, particularly if they want to be classified that way. But I don’t think they do, do they?)

27

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 3:38 am

So “race” and money are more important determinants of identity than religion. It’s important what Romney is not. Yes, he’s not a mainstream Christian but he made clear what he really is not when he spoke to the NAACP and turned down Rubio for the VP position.

28

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 3:40 am

In terms of who Jains are, one interesting question is their receptivity to the right-wing Hindu nationalist party and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). I think we find some disturbing evidence and some mixed evidence here.

29

nick s 08.14.12 at 4:47 am

Getting more into it is too weird for a basically secular society like the USA, I think.

That’s very much an outsider’s perspective. I’ll refer you to Emo Phillips.

One can also discuss, genealogically, how American Methodists, with their Great Awakening revivalist heritage, are somewhat different from English Methodists with their traditions of coffee mornings and tombolas. American Christianity is very much its own evolutionary branch, and what ‘indian’ in #25 would probably consider ‘protestant’ only encompasses the mainline and perhaps the evangelical, leaving aside the fundamentalists and particularly the nontrinitarians (LDS, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists).

While nontrinitarian congregations in America predate independence, and New England’s Unitarians could probably be considered culturally WASP, it’s a stretch to classify the nontrinitarian groups of 19th century origin as Protestant, and not one either they or self-described Protestants accept.

I’ll also note that when Nikki Haley, the daughter of Sikhs and a convert to Methodism, was nominated against Vincent Sheheen, a Roman Catholic, in the South Carolina governor’s election in 2010, a major newspaper in the state ran a little piece for its Bible Belt readers explaining both Sikhism and Roman Catholicism.

30

js. 08.14.12 at 4:50 am

Isn’t it just that WASP as a category isn’t all that important anymore? (Outside of very small extremely nutty circles, obviously.) The category that’s always mattered is what we’d today most readily identify as “white”. At some point, the “white” category was most closely associated with a genuine WASP background. But as various people have noted, this category has expanded over time to include more and more previously-excluded groups. I think Belle Waring made the point on here not all that long back that (several if not all groups that fall under) “Asian” might soon get included under whatever we now call white. This seems pretty plausible to me. More generally, thinking in terms of a slowly expanding dominant group category that can take on various religious/racial/ethnic designations as primary seems like the right frame to me.

31

JW Mason 08.14.12 at 4:52 am

We don’t for example hear about whether Silician American test scores are lower or higher than Irish American test scores.

Andrew Hacker made this point in his response to The Bell Curve. There are very large gaps in “achievement” between different white ethnic groups, but these are never discussed, while the supposed deficiencies of African-Americans get endless scrutiny.

32

js. 08.14.12 at 4:56 am

Also, umm, can we cut dear old Anscombe some slack? Yeah, obviously, she’s Crazy Catholic Lady. But, you know, Slave-Owning Founding Fathers! Etc.

33

garymar 08.14.12 at 5:26 am

Jamie @ 19: “needing to convince a nun”

Some people have the most rarefied sexual pleasures.

34

John Holbo 08.14.12 at 5:32 am

I had actually meant the Dan Savage comparison as a compliment to her internal consistency. She’s sees the stakes clearly, sees what consistency would demand. Her piece isn’t cranky in any of the usual Maggie Gallagher ways. She doesn’t make bad slippery slope arguments or indulge in the paranoid style. She does not wildly overestimate the likelihood of Western Civilizational collapse. Her cultural forecasts are reasonable and, in the event, correct. She just thinks we should conceive of love and sex in such a way that contraception appears impermissible. And she’s quite clear that some major premises are based on Biblical, thus allegedly ‘revealed’ truth. No one who doesn’t buy that should buy the argument. On the whole a perfectly logical and self-reflective view.

35

Zamfir 08.14.12 at 6:29 am

It’s still a bit weird that Obama isn’t a WASP, despite being a protestant and being raised by his white anglo saxon mother and family.

36

Charles Peterson 08.14.12 at 6:50 am

Maybe we’ll miss the wasps. Who was the last President who was a WASP? Oh, never mind. I missed that one about the Court, thanks!

It does seem to me that often when non-WASP’s win, they do so by aping wasps even better. Well not this President at least, though he’s remarkably similar in too many ways.

WRT religion, that may be part of a longstanding craziness, which had been under wraps for the earlier part of the 20th century. But the rise of religious right was, I believe, a planned attack on the New Deal and Great Society. Strangely, however, Carter was the first President to make a big deal out of his personal religion. And since then there has been a positive feedback loop going between religion and bad governance, the end being too dismal to contemplate.

I think the US actually missed a huge opportunity to make something like Unitarianism the official state supported religion. State religions, at least the west European ones, seem to be tame, more pro-social, and not getting out-of-hand. It seems like state supported churches in Europe have led to athiesm, and I think that would have been wonderful in itself, and it would make it less possible to use irrationality in politics. Open religious competition combined with lack of taxation on churches has led to insane irrationality, rejection of science, proxy imperialism, etc., all in the greater service of a rapacious plutocracy.

37

widget 08.14.12 at 7:23 am

On the whole a perfectly logical and self-reflective view.

I had the same overall reaction except that I think this sentence: “The action is not left by you as the kind of act by which life is transmitted, but is purposely rendered infertile, and so changed to another sort of act altogether.” doesn’t qualify as logical. That’s assuming the conclusion, given that the whole point Anscombe is arguing is whether “purposely render[ing]” the sex act “infertile” makes it the “sort of act” one shouldn’t do. And it’s the bit where I can’t follow even after spotting her all the other necessary assumptions along the way.

38

Scott Martens 08.14.12 at 7:31 am

I have to disagree with you about this, John:

Nor have Mormons generally pushed back by trying to argue for acceptance as just another Protestant sect.

Yes they have. Quite a lot and quite consistently. They just haven’t been very successful. The whole “another Gospel of Jesus Christ” campaign emphasizes exactly that. Mormonism’s embrace of attitudes towards race, women and sexuality that are generally intolerable has to be read in the context of Mormonism’s fight to be acknowledged as normal and socially acceptable in an era when progressive attitudes on those subjects would have lent arguments to their opponents. (I find the arguments for that interpretation very convincing, and it’s true that does make me less willing to condemn Mormonism for it.) Mormons have fought, and still fight hard, to be acknowledged as a legitimate Christian denomination.

Unfortunately, all too often, this has been done by embracing the worst, most conservative, most retrograde aspects of American religious culture rather than its best ones. But I do find it unacceptably hypocritical that a church whose own origins and struggles are so closely tied to unorthodox family structures would make such a fuss about gay marriage. I find that more condemnation-worthy than the fact that the Mormon church was openly racist when practically everyone in America was openly racist.

Having grown up with a religion that, for many centuries, carried a death penalty if you were caught belonging to it, I’m probably a bit more tolerant of Mormon eccentricities than most. Mormonism’s roots in American folk magic are hardly weirder than, say, Santeria or Voodoo and not much stranger than exorcism and transubstantiation. My reductio is that anything that isn’t weirder than the ritual consumption of the corpse of a Jewish zombie should be tolerated as a matter of course, without debate. Stephens takes a very Confucian sort of view of that kind of thing: The content of religious rituals, the beliefs about the transcendent, don’t matter very much, while the here-and-now of public morality and alternative lifestyles does.

A quick scan of Stephens’ book only finds one reference to Mormons, so I’m not sure where the notion of a reductio is coming from, but I have to admit to not having done an in-depth reading. When he talks about Mormonism, it’s in the same breath as “St. Simonianism” and “experiments in living”. I think what Stephens is really on about here is stomping the hippies and only distantly about tolerating customs and beliefs.

I’ve always understood Stephens’ argument against religious plurality to be more parallel to arguments for constitutional monarchy, or for that matter for some form of economically interventionist social democracy: The state can be no more morally neutral than it can be economically or politically neutral. It is therefore best to identify the outline and boundaries of the state’s moral interests, just as it is essential for there to be a core political structure which is upheld independently of partisan and democratic politics (which one might identify with a hereditary sovereign that does not rely on politics for her office), and that there be an economic framework in order for the state to survive (which we might identify with limited property rights, a central bank-driven monetary policy and a social safety net that are treated as politically inviolate). Stephens identifies that outline of the state’s moral interests with some form of state religion. It strikes me as a temptingly coherent argument.

And as for the end of WASP power, perhaps we should mark its passing with a memorial service of some kind. Perhaps we should solemnly burn an embroidered polo and make David Brooks wear black for a while.

39

J. Otto Pohl 08.14.12 at 7:39 am

WASP has not been an important category in the US for decades. For my entire adult life the US elite has included very large numbers of people of Jewish and Catholic background. Indeed if one looks at numbers in the general population versus numbers in the elite I think WASPs have been underrepresented. Whereas a number of non WASP groups such as Jews have been over represented. Talking about a WASP elite is an anachronism.

40

Phil 08.14.12 at 7:55 am

Both Stephens and Arnold were “liberals” of the time of a sort

Stephen (one ‘s’) and Arnold were intelligent people who did their best to argue logically, and they didn’t actually support slavery or dictatorship. As such, they certainly weren’t the craziest or the most right-wing thing out there in Victorian England, but I can’t see much grounds for calling them ‘liberal’ either in contemporary terms or retrospectively. Arnold’s politics were basically “Dover Beach” plus “The forsaken merman” – the world’s ruined (those awful noisy workers! those awful ignorant capitalists!), and it’s up to us in the cultural elite to keep apart and maintain some kind of higher values, even if we don’t entirely believe in them ourselves.

Whether Stephen knew about the suppression of Mormonism is secondary, I think – the argument is basically “allow people to believe what they like and you end up with fanatical enthusiasts who demand to be treated like a real religion”; the Mormon War[s] would just be an example of the trouble these crazy people can stir up if you encourage them.

But surely, returning to the OP, “the state shouldn’t allow people to believe any old thing” just *is* a conservative position? If that doesn’t track contemporary notions (sc. of conservatism), the fault is with the contemporary notions.

41

Phil 08.14.12 at 8:00 am

When he talks about Mormonism, it’s in the same breath as “St. Simonianism” and “experiments in living”. I think what Stephens is really on about here is stomping the hippies and only distantly about tolerating customs and beliefs.

I think that’s the point – Stephen (with one ‘s’) is arguing that if you make religious tolerance an absolute principle you’ll have to tolerate roving bands of hippies saying “thou” and “thee” a few times and calling themselves a religion. Which would be anarchy, obv.

42

John Holbo 08.14.12 at 10:08 am

Quick response to Scott on the run. I am very happy to be corrected about misunderstanding of Mormonism about which I know little. But what you are saying doesn’t sound different from what I said. You are saying Mormons have long insisted they are Christians. I was saying they haven’t insisted that as Christians they should be classed as Protestants. Those claims look consistent and both true to me, as far as I know.

43

Pseudonym 08.14.12 at 10:31 am

Sadly, I am too dumb to contribute much to this blog, but after a brief skim I haven’t seen it noted that Mormonism may not be considered “Protestant” because it doesn’t trace its origin to the Protestant Reformation or its aftermath. In particular, most other Protestant sects claim that they are recognizing the true meaning of the Church that was established by Jesus and his apostles and disciples in opposition to false doctrines that have been propagated since then. The LDS movement claims a subsequent revelation and a more recent prophet, and it arguably worships a non-trinitarian supreme being. It’s been forever since my religion classes in parochial high school though so I don’t know how that would compare to other recent Christian movements like Seventh-Day Adventists or the Church of Christ Scientist.
It does seem that there’s increasing acceptance in the religious right for those faiths that exhibit the appropriate forms of social and cultural and stylistic conservatism, whatever their theological beliefs: I wouldn’t be surprised to find the Mormon Romney, perhaps through his mouthpiece VP or his SuperPAC money, insinuating that just as Harry Reid isn’t a true Mormon people like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi aren’t true Catholics, while of course Obama was born a Muslim and will not just be suspect forever but must either appear as a heretic and apostate to the Islamic world or must be a secret practicer of taqiyya who lies to us Merkins.

44

Pseudonym 08.14.12 at 10:34 am

Perhaps we should solemnly burn an embroidered polo and make David Brooks wear black for a while.

Or vice versa, wear an embroidered polo while we solemnly burn David Brooks. Not for apostasy, mind you, but for taste, which he utterly lacks until the charring starts to caramelize some of the sugars.

45

Malaclypse 08.14.12 at 11:17 am

Mormons don’t consider themselves to be Protestant. They have a doctrine of authority that is, to them, as important and as logical as Apostolic Succession, and they consider it rather a big deal that Protestants don’t have that. Also.

46

chris 08.14.12 at 12:05 pm

ISTM that this mostly reflects that anti-Catholicism ain’t what it used to be. Once more Christians realized that there were ACTUAL NON-CHRISTIANS in this country, God forbid, they circled the wagons and decided any Christian was good enough, even a Mormon. Hell, they’ll even accept Irish and Italians as “white” now.

(Fun fact: if you go way back to the time of the Founders, you can find people who publicly expressed their worries over whether the *Pennsylvania Dutch* were too alien to ever become part of the American people. As a person with Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry predating the Revolution, I find this hilarious, but YMMV.)

One Jew ran for a top office and lost. I wouldn’t exactly say that the corridors of power are open to them. Muslims, let alone anyone outside the tradition of Abraham, can still GTFO and be thankful the Christians let them live as long as they keep their mouths shut. Asking to actually have the equal rights they are guaranteed on paper can still get non-Christians targeted by terrorist violence in some parts of the US.

Rumors of the decline of Christian hegemony in the US are greatly exaggerated. (Mostly by a subgroup of Christians themselves, who love their persecution complex more than anything.)

47

John Quiggin 08.14.12 at 12:11 pm

I’m not clear on the final para. Mill distinguished clearly between his support for freedom of religion (fundamental to liberalism) and for free markets (based on the best available economic analysis, but subject to revision if that analysis proved fallible). His famous conversion to (a very abstract kind of socialism) illustrates the point.

I’d say that industrial policy is a paradigm example of something where the modern (US-style) liberal view ought to be agnostic – if it looks like working well in a particular case, give it a go, but there is no general reason to be either for or against, unlike both free speech and egalitarian income policy.

48

LFC 08.14.12 at 12:41 pm

js.:
can we cut dear old Anscombe some slack?
well, Iris Murdoch, for one, did (see the dedication page of Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals), so you’re in pretty good company, IMHO.

49

Peter Erwin 08.14.12 at 12:44 pm

ISTM that this mostly reflects that anti-Catholicism ain’t what it used to be. Once more Christians realized that there were ACTUAL NON-CHRISTIANS in this country, God forbid, they circled the wagons and decided any Christian was good enough, even a Mormon.

Except the “ACTUAL NON-CHRISTIANS in this country” perception was there back in the 19th and early 20th Century. The revived (“second”) KKK of the 1920s was dead-set against the immigration of both Catholics and Jews.

One Jew ran for a top office and lost. I wouldn’t exactly say that the corridors of power are open to them.

Roughly 6% of the House is Jewish (including the current Majority Leader), and 13% of the Senate. Given that only 2% of the US population is Jewish, that’s pretty good.

50

bianca steele 08.14.12 at 1:04 pm

@20 Which sentence?

Sorry, I was trying to type quickly at bedtime. This one:

I think he is assuming – rightly – that the Americans, like everyone else except Mormons, would accept any argument that concludes ‘Mormonism is tolerable’ as a reductio.

Unless you are meaning something different by “accept” as long as it has “as a reductio” attached.

If someone knows about x at all, one presumes they know about the most salient facts about x.

That seems charitable, but it’s an assumption that I think is going to lead you astray with lots of writers (on a guess, J.W. Stephens more likely than Mill, or than Anscombe), especially when the text provides ample evidence to the contrary–what happens then, do you assume the writer is only joking?

As for the OP, true, the governor of Massachusetts is African-American–and he attended Milton Academy and Harvard. (There hasn’t been a woman in a statewide national office since the 1960s, OTOH.) Not sure how this affects your argument.

51

Peter Erwin 08.14.12 at 1:12 pm

There are similar debates in India as to whether say Jains and Sikhs are Hindu. The Indian constitution says they are. Probably makes sense because Hiinduism is very broad and includes even indian-born atheistic threads.

Well, the Indian constitution also says (in the same sentence) that Buddhists are to be counted as Hindus, which is something I don’t think most Buddhists would agree with.

52

bianca steele 08.14.12 at 1:14 pm

JH@34
It is nice that Anscombe is upfront about starting from a religious assumption. But what’s the fallacy that goes, “A implies B, you don’t believe A, therefore you are required to believe not-B”?

53

Bill Benzon 08.14.12 at 1:21 pm

John, if I’m not mistaken, you’re a musician. French horn, no?

So, if you were commissioned to compose a WASPerdämmerung, how would that go? Theme and Variations on Yankee Doodle followed by Fantasia on Old Hundredth? And then what? What’s characteristically WASP music? (And I don’t mean the band, W.A.S.P., of which I know nothing. But Google does.)

54

bianca steele 08.14.12 at 1:22 pm

Also, regarding JW Stephen, I agree he wouldn’t have thought much of the Second Great Awakening. He wouldn’t have liked what came before that, either, probably: freedom of religion (at some point it was necessary for everyone to have a religion, though), with predominance of Unitarianism and Congregationalism. If he’d been alive then, he would have been happy to see it transformed–in the event, not in the direction it actually went in, though. He wouldn’t have liked what came before that, either, I bet: establishment of Congregationalism, and he would have been happy to see that undermined, though again, hopefully, in the opposite direction than the way it occurred.

Y

55

bianca steele 08.14.12 at 1:22 pm

You have a point that Anscombe at least knows what’s going to happen next.

56

David Moles 08.14.12 at 1:32 pm

Anecdotally: a few years ago the weekly paper in my dad’s Nebraska hometown (Seward, pop. approx. 6000) ran a bit about how the local pastors — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc. — were getting together for a monthly interfaith lunch, which was to be open to any Christian denomination. When they were asked if this would include Mormons (still mostly hypothetical in that town, at the time), the response was along the lines of: “Well, I don’t think we’d go that far.” There might be an argument that Mormons are in some sense Protestant, but historically they certainly haven’t been constructed as such.

57

Phil 08.14.12 at 2:13 pm

AIUI the LDS position is that they are the Church of Jesus Christ, reconstituted pretty much ex nihilo following the revelation to Joseph Smith. (Also, they have their own scriptures, which is a bit of a defining feature.) Some Protestant groups – particularly post-Awakening groups like the Plymouth Brethren – take a similar “they think they are but they’re not really” attitude to other Christian churches (and the Catholic Church in particular), but it’s quite unusual.

58

etc. 08.14.12 at 2:17 pm

Zamfir,
“Black man, White woman, Black baby”

59

Scott Martens 08.14.12 at 2:29 pm

John@42: I see your point, but I didn’t quite read it the way you intended. The status Mormons aspired to was to be the social equals of, say, the Methodists, or Presbyterians, or Episcopalians, or Baptists. Protestant was not a category of religious faith for most people until, roughly, Weber. Lutherans were Protestants, and adopted that label loudly. Calvinists saw themselves as non-Catholic and non-Protestant until the 18th century or so. Anabaptists did until the 20th century, and some of them still do. Anglicans are still ambiguous about it, although American Episcopalians are not so much.

Protestant was a broad category that didn’t amount to much in America more than “socially acceptable non-Catholics”, until Catholics started appearing in meaningful numbers. That was definitely what Mormons aspired to. The only difference now is that maybe it’s just “socially acceptable”, since “non-Catholic” has lost most of its importance.

60

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 2:46 pm

@30 Asian Americans are not on their way to becoming white. They are underpaid once education is controlled for, and they voted overwhelmingly for Obama for in 2008. As for Bobby and Nikki it does not seem to me that their role has been to bring Asian-Americans into the Republican Party. Still they have made the leadership of the Republican Party more diverse than the blogger roll at Crooked Timber.
@ 31 I thought it was Eugene Genovese, not Andrew Hacker. Right?
@35 Great point.

61

Charles Peterson 08.14.12 at 2:49 pm

#46: There hasn’t been a woman in a statewide national office since the 1960s, OTOH.

I don’t understand, what about Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. Hillary Clinton. Or is the operative word statewide and “national” as sobriquet, so Gov Palin. I respect the performance under unusually difficult circumstances of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, which is a sort of national office, and then there’s Sec. Clinton.

To firm my previous musings at #36, church is an institution which does not yet have a full secular replacement. It is essential for certain functions like mating and localized social connection. What the US has done is privatize this function, which however respectable the freedom aspect is to liberals (and despite being constantly condemned by religious right–even though they owe their very existence to the oft denounced “separation”) it tends to lead to a race-to-the-bottom toward irrationality and intolerance in religion. The lack of a national church also means the USA is not a “nation” as many conservatives like to say, but a “country.” That means a society which is too fragmented to control its plutocracy and militaristic oligarchy.

62

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 3:00 pm

@31 I had in mind Eugene Genovese’s piece in the volume on the Bell Curve that Jacoby edited. I see that Hacker makes the same point in the Fraser,ed. volume. Genovese with whom I usually disagree wrote:
“Well, then, why do they [Herrnstein and Murray]
lump all blacks together? Where, apart from a few
inadequate and unhelpful remarks, do we find an
examination of ethnic differences among blacks
in, say, performance on IQ tests? And the same
criticism could be extended to the treamtment of
whites, not all of whom might respond to other
comparisons with the equanimity they show for
comparisons involving blacks. Personally, I am
pleased to be told that blacks are not as smart
as Sicilians, but I would not recommend that
anyone try to tell me that Sicilians are not as
smart as WASP’s or Jews.”

63

JW Mason 08.14.12 at 3:04 pm

Having grown up with a religion that, for many centuries, carried a death penalty if you were caught belonging to it

Wait, which?

64

Watson Ladd 08.14.12 at 3:05 pm

And it means that New York is a city where Assyrians, Jews, Ethiopians, Arabs, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Sheiks, and others can all live and pray in harmony. The absence of a national church is what enables us to treat everyone as a citizen. An established church in the US would have marked entire groups of people as other in indelible ways.

The same religious freedom you denounce as leading to a race to extremism is what permitted the Unitarian Universalist Association to form and grow. It is what lead to Reform surviving. It why groups like the Mennonites and Amish are able to live in peace here after centuries of prosecution in Europe.

65

JW Mason 08.14.12 at 3:14 pm

There hasn’t been a woman in a statewide national office since the 1960s, OTOH.

Bianca was referring specifically to Massachusetts, so Clinton, Palin, etc. aren’t counterexamples. But the claim is still obviously wrong, given that the current Attorney General is Martha Coakley, three of the past five Lieutenant Governors have been women (one of whom served as acting Governor for two years), etc. In fact you would have to go back quite a few years to find a time when Massachusetts did *not* have a woman in statewide office.

66

JW Mason 08.14.12 at 3:24 pm

church is an institution which does not yet have a full secular replacement. It is essential for certain functions like mating and localized social connection.

Charles Peterson hits the key point here. “Freedom of conscience” is not a coherent position, because the religion is inherently a public and social institution. The attempt to mark it off as a purely private issue of arbitrary personal tastes requires either replacing it with a civic culture that is religion in all but name, or dragging essential public questions into the private sphere as well. France, I suppose, would be a prime example of the first, the US of the second (tho we have elements of civic religion here too, Constitution-worship and so on.)

It is not possible to say that we as a community have no interest in the obligations of family members to each other, or that there is nothing that constitutes the nation as a community except the formal statuses of citizenship and legal residency. But while eliminating the religious and ethnic answers to these questions has been an enormous step forward for human freedom, it’s undermined by the failure to offer anything solid in their place.

This, by the way, is the point of Marx’s wrongly maligned essay “On the Jewish Question.”

67

Scott Martens 08.14.12 at 3:48 pm

JW@61: Anabaptist. (a.k.a., Mennonites)

I know it was a death penalty offense in Switzerland after 1526 – a decade before that little incident in Münster that we don’t like to talk about – but I’ve never been able to find when it was formally repealed. I suspect it was still on the books in places when Napoleon did away with the old regimes in central Europe. I know the death penalty was still in force for Anabaptists in parts of the Holy Roman Empire after the Peace of Westphalia – the Martelaersspiegel tells the story of martyrs killed for their faith as late as 1660 – but I don’t think it was still enforced very much after 1700 or so. Dissenting churches just weren’t that weird by then, although there was still plenty of animosity towards a church that strongly emphasized rejection of secular government, non-violence, and a general unwillingness to pay taxes.

But yeah, it means I sympathize with the Mormon struggle. Not the Mormon faith, just the Mormon struggle.

68

piglet 08.14.12 at 4:15 pm

“the secularist reduction of marriage as merely a union that sanctions sexual activity between partners”

I thought precisely that that was the Church position. Nobody else thinks that sexual activity needs to be “sanctioned”. Apart from that, why again should anybody read this? There may be a good reason for linking to this particular web site among the trillions of other wingnut web sites but Holbo doesn’t tell us. I guess I’m just old-fashioned but I do appreciate coherence and non-arbitrariness.

69

piglet 08.14.12 at 4:36 pm

Mason 31: “There are very large gaps in “achievement” between different white ethnic groups, but these are never discussed, while the supposed deficiencies of African-Americans get endless scrutiny.”

They are not “never discussed”. They used to be discussed a lot – in fact the whole IQ test movement started with the desire to find a rationale for limiting Eastern and Southern European and Jewish immigration. Gould’s Mismeasure of Man is worth rereading. The notorious Richard Lynn also wrote quite a bit, and quite recently, about the “low” IQ of the Irish compared to the English. These “intra-white” (for lack of a better word) racisms may not have much traction any more in the US (perhaps in part because census doesn’t track them any more) but they used to be quite significant. That supports of course the observation that traditional WASPism has been supplanted by a more generic white/christian identification. Most significant seems to me the fact that evangelicals and Catholics are nowadays so closely allied, which a few decades ago was unthinkable.

70

Wonks Anonymous 08.14.12 at 4:41 pm

I didn’t know Christian Scientists were non-Trinitarian, I thought of them as just another kind of Protestant of 7th Day Adventist category weirdness. Jehovah’s Witnesses are interesting in that they actually had a President before Catholics, though I believe Eisenhower converted before taking office. I agree that Mormons seem “Protestant”, while their status as Christians somewhat questionable.

Charles Peterson, see The Political Economy of Beliefs: Why Fiscal and Social Conservatives and Liberals Come Hand-in-Hand.

71

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 4:51 pm

The Mormons are literally a white flight movement. Go to a Mormon temple and see the statues of perfect white children with a dog. The older child will be a boy with a perfect crew cut with his little ribboned sister beholding him and the faithful dog at their feet.

72

piglet 08.14.12 at 4:54 pm

Phil 40: “But surely, returning to the OP, “the state shouldn’t allow people to believe any old thing” just is a conservative position?”

Exactly. Since when has religious tolerance been the conservative position? Holbo?

73

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 4:59 pm

74

Tim Wilkinson 08.14.12 at 5:04 pm

The absence of a national church is what enables us to treat everyone as a citizen.

at the risk of actuating Mason’s Law, may I draw the attention of the CT community at large to the existence of something called the Church of England (Anglicanism, btw, while clearly not orthodox, is not easily classified without remainder as exclusively either Protestant or Catholic)? More generally I’d suggest comparing the reality of religious toleration in the UK and USA from at least, say, c. 1830 onwards.

Also – the W in WASP is redundant; the AS in WASP may be overspecific since I would assume that it excludes the Dutch and that they should probably be included; Obama not only cannot be a WP in the US but is actually Black, because an informal, largely phenotypic, variant of the ‘one drop’ rule seems to apply over there; since JH triggers my slightly oversensitive and defensive – yet non-pathological – preoccupation with the term ‘Paranoid Style’, here’s a use of this agnotogenic term which may help to illustrate its lazily prejudicial nature; okthxbai.

75

bianca steele 08.14.12 at 5:35 pm

JW Mason: I probably meant “US Congressional office,” but I wasn’t sure where I’d seen the stat. Most likely it was Wikipedia’s list of congressional reps going back to pre-revolutionary times. IIRC there was a woman elected (i.e. not a widow) as a Republican in the 1960s and nobody since about the Goldwater era.

AFAICT GEM Anscombe would have little patience with anything like civil religion, and at best might class it with Protestant attempts to use Catholic institutions without paying full price (possibly even going full Godwin), which for obvious reasons isn’t a classification that Western-hemisphere freedom-of-religion arguments can make much good use of, even in the best case.

76

Malaclypse 08.14.12 at 6:46 pm

Go to a Mormon temple and see the statues of perfect white children with a dog. The older child will be a boy with a perfect crew cut with his little ribboned sister beholding him and the faithful dog at their feet.

While not disputing the unpleasant racial history of Mormons, this simply isn’t true. Outside a Mormon temple, you will see the statue of Moroni on the steeple. Inside (which you can’t see unless you are a “worthy” Mormon, or are visiting a temple so new it has not been dedicated), you will see this rather strange baptismal-font-atop-12-oxen thing. What you will not actually see is the statue you have described.

77

nick s 08.14.12 at 7:13 pm

I didn’t know Christian Scientists were non-Trinitarian, I thought of them as just another kind of Protestant of 7th Day Adventist category weirdness.

Seventh-Day Adventism started out as anti-trinitarian, but gradually accepted it as doctrine over the first half of the 20th century, as part of a wider outreach to more mainstream Protestantism. While trinitarianism isn’t a foolproof way to divvy up the denominational boom of 19th century America, it’s a decent start.

78

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 7:13 pm

I did not go inside the one temple to which I have been (and, no, it was not for a Prop 8 protest in California against the likes of Alan C. Ashton), but that was what I saw on the outside. I am glad that you are not disputing the other part.

79

piglet 08.14.12 at 7:31 pm

This is somewhat on topic (re state and church):

The state of Hamburg has negotiated a formal contract with Islamic communities that won’t give them equal status with the churches but apparently will organize the religious education for Muslim children. Apparently, the Islamic communities will arrange with the Lutheran church for joint religious education – in state schools. This must be totally bizarre to Americans (and probably to most others) but Hamburg’s Lutheran church had already assumed the religious education of the city’s few Catholics. This is what you get when a religiously homogenous society turns secular.

http://www.ndr.de/regional/hamburg/staatsvertrag131.html
http://www.kirche-hamburg.de/nachrichten/one.news/index.html?entry=page.newshh.201207.3
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religionsunterricht_in_Deutschland

80

piglet 08.14.12 at 7:31 pm

This is somewhat on topic (re state and church):

The state of Hamburg has negotiated a formal contract with Islamic communities that won’t give them equal status with the churches but apparently will organize the religious education for Muslim children. Apparently, the Islamic communities will arrange with the Lutheran church for joint religious education – in state schools. This must be totally bizarre to Americans (and probably to most others) but Hamburg’s Lutheran church had already assumed the religious education of the city’s few Catholics. This is what you get when a religiously homogenous society turns secular.

81

Malaclypse 08.14.12 at 7:35 pm

I’m not disputing the awful, awful history at all (google the phrase “white and delightsome” if you want to make yourself physically ill), but I’m pretty sure you did not see that statue at a Temple. Those are fairly uncommon, and the statuary is fairly standardized. Perhaps you were at some other type of Mormon church building, but access to actual Temples is rigidly controlled.

Bad Mormon Art is very bad, and tends to be paintings rather than statues. The next time you ponder the anti-gay stance on the Mormon Church, remember that they keep The Stripling Warriors proudly displayed in the SLC Visitor Center, without any hint of irony.

82

Keith Edwards 08.14.12 at 7:39 pm

Charles Peterson:
I think the US actually missed a huge opportunity to make something like Unitarianism the official state supported religion. State religions, at least the west European ones, seem to be tame, more pro-social, and not getting out-of-hand. It seems like state supported churches in Europe have led to athiesm, and I think that would have been wonderful in itself, and it would make it less possible to use irrationality in politics.

I wholeheartedly agree, however this is all 20/20 hindsight.

It’s one of the greatest ironies that, two centuries later, the European countries with Protestant state religions have, to a one, become Atheist in everything but name, while the great secular experiment that is the USA is overcome by exactly the sectarian hijinks the founding fathers attempted to avoid, simply because they refused to establish a state church. The 2nd greatest mistake* the authors of our Constitution made was taking religion at face value. But how were they to know that the trappings of faith quickly become just another hollow ceremonial function once they become tethered to the state bureaucracy?

I’m sure if we set our Wayback Machine for 1775 and hand Jefferson a copy of the Book of Mormon, and tell him this will be the result of not establishing a state religion, even he, the closet atheist that he was, would see the prudence of making Unitarianism the state church. But again, hindsight.

_________
*The 1st of course was not abolishing slavery outright, Southerns and their peculiar institution be damned.

83

Jeffrey Davis 08.14.12 at 7:41 pm

If people get the split between Protestants, Catholics, and other Christians mixed up, just imagine the confusion once you throw in evangelicals and pentecostals.

84

Rakesh 08.14.12 at 7:58 pm

I saw what I saw where I saw it.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/brraveheart/7705586748/

Seen from a different angle, it has hints of a kind of Great Chain of Being with a tall white son followed by obeisant sister and a loyal dog, all basking in the Glory of God.

85

Stephen 08.14.12 at 7:59 pm

Out of curiosity: which, if any, of the regular contributors to CT would classify themselves as WASPs?

And if, as I suspect, it’s rather few, does that say anything significant about CT?

86

Harold 08.14.12 at 8:01 pm

Bush and Cheney were are last WASP leaders — good riddance. I second the idea of making Unitarianism/Transcendentalism the state religion. It sort of was, unofficially, having metamorphosed from New England Calvinism.

87

Harold 08.14.12 at 8:01 pm

are = our

88

Malaclypse 08.14.12 at 8:07 pm

I stand corrected. Temples out East are rather different. Most don’t have outside statuary beyond the Moroni thing. Either way, apologies for simply assuming you mistook a ward building for a temple.

89

Peter Erwin 08.14.12 at 9:10 pm

It seems like state supported churches in Europe have led to athiesm, and I think that would have been wonderful in itself, and it would make it less possible to use irrationality in politics. Open religious competition combined with lack of taxation on churches has led to insane irrationality, rejection of science, proxy imperialism, etc., all in the greater service of a rapacious plutocracy.

I’ve heard the argument about “state-supported churches lead to atheism”; it requires ignoring the fact that religiosity in Poland, Greece, Croatia, Malta, Italy, and Portugal is, in at least some senses, higher than in the US (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Importance_of_religion_by_country)

There’s also the problem with explaining why Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which don’t really have state-supported churches, aren’t as religious, etc., as the US, and why other countries with state-supported religions (e.g., many Muslim and some Buddhist countries) aren’t bastions of atheism.

(Given that state-supported churches in Europe date back to the 4th Century, the “state-supported churches –> atheism & rational politics” transition seems to require an awfully long time…)

90

Omega Centauri 08.14.12 at 9:54 pm

Can one be an ex-WASP? Being that I don’t believe any of the Abrahamic stuff anymore.

91

leederick 08.14.12 at 10:07 pm

Dunno. I think the previous posters were mostly talking about Northern Europe style state churches – Church of England/Sweden/Denmark/Evangelical Church in Germany etc. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand aren’t good counter examples, they obviously had state support for Anglicanism for most their history, Poland and Croatia had a government actively hostile to religion let alone supporting it for most the post-war period, and Portugal has church/state separation.

92

prasad 08.14.12 at 10:14 pm

One day, I too will never read anything, only reread. I have begun to speak in that manner to practice.

93

peter 08.14.12 at 10:22 pm

@73: Tim Wilkinson: “More generally I’d suggest comparing the reality of religious toleration in the UK and USA from at least, say, c. 1830 onwards.”

1832 saw Catholic emancipation in Britain, and the House of Commons also voted for Jewish emancipation in 1833. But it took until 1867 (and much political effort) for the House of Lords to agree to give (male) Jewish Britons the right to vote. All those 34 years, Jewish men had the right to vote in the USA.

And, it wasn’t until this century – 2001! – that former Catholic priests were legally permitted to sit in the House of Commons. I don’t think Britain’s record on religious toleration is something to boast about.

94

David Moles 08.14.12 at 10:27 pm

Apropos of almost nothing, the OED’s earliest citation for “Wasp” in this sense is 1962, in “Ethnophaulisms and Ethnocentrism“, E.B. Palmore, Amer. Jrnl. Sociol. 67 442/2, which contains such gems as “Table 1: Rank Order [by Bogardus' 'Social Distance Scale'] of Prejudice by Wasps against Other Groups and Number of Ethnophaulisms.” (Canadians: social distance 1, ethnophaulisms 1. Germans: social distance 4, ethnophaulisms 9. Jews: social distance 6, ethnophaulisms 9. Negroes: social distance 9, ethnophaulisms 56. And so on. I don’t think the “ethnophaulism” coinage caught on.)

Palmore doesn’t note Mormons as a separate category, but then his sources — Roback’s “A Dictionary of International Slurs” and Wentworth & Flexner’s “Dictionary of American Slang” may not have included data from the intermountain West. (Come to think of it, as a California boy I can’t think of any derogatory terms for Mormons off the top of my head. Which of course puts one in mind of the Monty Python “Prejudice” sketch, where one of the honorable mentions in the competition to find a derogatory term for Belgians is “I couldn’t think of anything more derogatory than ‘Belgians’.”)

95

garymar 08.14.12 at 10:55 pm

Malaclypse @ 79:

Those “stripling” warriors all look like they’re on steroids. Probably got hold of some when the Lost Tribes invaded Muscle Beach.

96

dave heasman 08.14.12 at 11:24 pm

What’s characteristically WASP music?

Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker?

Adele? Rush? Dave Brubeck? (kind of ironic, but)

Todd Rundgren? John Legend?

97

Substance McGravitas 08.14.12 at 11:27 pm

Something like Pat Boone or Perry Como maybe.

98

Peter Erwin 08.14.12 at 11:43 pm

Canada, Australia, and New Zealand aren’t good counter examples, they obviously had state support for Anglicanism for most their history

I’m not sure how true that is; I believe the Anglican Church was disestablished in New South Wales back in 1836, and the 1900 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia explicitly separates church from state. (“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”) My very limited understanding of New Zealand history suggests that the Anglican Church never had much official support from the colonial government(s).

Poland and Croatia had a government actively hostile to religion let alone supporting it for most the post-war period …

As did all the other East European countries, including the Czech Republic and Estonia (which are now two of the least religious countries in Europe).

… and Portugal has church/state separation.

Only since 1976, and there are still special privileges accorded by the government to the Catholic Church.

99

Martin James 08.14.12 at 11:53 pm

“But there will be no WASPS whatsoever at the absolute top of the political system, and people won’t even notice. Get over it.”

Charles Murray seems to have noticed. Neither the Catholics nor the Jews want to call attention to it for opposite reasons. Catholics because they always assumed they would be the eventual majority and the Jews due to not wanting to call attention to their over-representation in the elite.

What is interesting about Catholics, Jews and Mormons is that they all have a more international identification than the local protestant churches. Mormons feel they inherited the mantle of Manifest Destiny from the USA which sold its birthright for the good life, just as they inherited the restored church from ancient prophets due to the apostasy and laxity of the catholic church.

100

Peter Erwin 08.15.12 at 12:01 am

What’s characteristically WASP music?

I was going to suggest John Phillip Sousa, but then I realized he wasn’t actually a WASP. But if we’re counting Gerry Mulligan, Rush, and Perry Como…

101

Tim Wilkinson 08.15.12 at 1:21 am

peter – No, I wouldn’t boast about Britain’s record of religious toleration post c.1790, because: (a) it is nothing to write home about, as you note; (b) it has really very little to do with me.

But since you mention those 34 years, here are some highlights of the reality (I generally put words into a sentence in order to contribute to its meaning) of religious toleration in the US during that period. It alone might seem to cast into doubt any suggestion that the US, lacking an established religion, was more tolerant of minority religions.

(1832, Jackson County, Missouri. A mob tars and feathers two leading Mormons and destroys some Mormon homes and the Mormon press. This does not make the cut though.)

1834, Charlestown, Massachusetts. Ursuline Convent Riots: a mob burns down a Roman Catholic convent.

1838, NW Missouri. The Missouri Mormon War: 20 Mormon adults and children and 2 non-Mormons killed. Other Mormons die as a result of expulsion from their homes and of Governor Lilburn Boggs Extermination Order.

1844, Carthage, Illinois: Mob kills jailed Mormons Joseph and Hyrum Smith with impunity.

1844, Philadelphia. Bible Riots: at least 20 are killed, numerous houses burnt and two churches destroyed.

102

Watson Ladd 08.15.12 at 1:54 am

Does WASP include Baptists? I always read WASP as New England.

103

Watson Ladd 08.15.12 at 2:16 am

Tim, the Church of England coeexisted with dissenting churches since the Glorious Revolution. However, Unitarians could not take posts at some Oxbridge colleges due to needing to take a Trinitarian oath, among other disabilities. Also, Mormons were abolitionists in a slaveowning state: Congregationalists would have met with a similar welcome.

104

Dr. Hilarius 08.15.12 at 2:36 am

Protestant doesn’t really mean much as a specific label to many Americans. The knowledge of religious divisions and sects displayed on this thread far exceeds that of the average American. Protestant to many just means not-Jewish and not-Catholic. Mormons might not want to be considered Protestant but they want to be treated socially as if they are.

On the other hand, we Worshipers of the Elder Gods, have no desire to be folded into the Protestant ranks. Probably explains why so few of us hold elective office.

105

Belle Waring 08.15.12 at 2:41 am

This is actually one of my areas of expertise. No, Baptists aren’t WASPs. The Church of England (Anglicanism) is identical in America to Episcopalianism, that most WASPy of faiths, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is sort of in charge of the Episcopalian Church, except no one really has to do what he says or anything. WASPs don’t really care about music, so we have classical music and, yes Perry Como type music. Frank Sinatra is a gangster and an Italian and we’re not sure about him. WASPs’ main sacrament is cocktails.

106

Belle Waring 08.15.12 at 2:53 am

It’s as though everything were a Ralph Lauren ad only a) he’s in the uncanny valley of WASPdom and thus irritating but I can’t tell you what’s wrong* b) there are more fat old men c) everything is beat up because WASPs are actually really cheap weirdly and will let things get frayed to ribbons. They have crappy cars and torn shirts and all that and $3000 shotguns. Because hunting. Hunting is very important and allows people to start drinking before it gets light in some cases.

*Tommy Hilfiger is in the uncanny valley of a Ralph Lauren ad and thus one must quickly turn the page or a vertiginous feeling will occur.

107

Dr. Hilarius 08.15.12 at 3:07 am

Belle: You are onto something about how WASP’s dress. My dear shanty-Irish father once remarked that “you have to be rich to dress that poorly.”

108

JanieM 08.15.12 at 3:24 am

WASPs don’t really care about music, so we have classical music and, yes Perry Como type music. Frank Sinatra is a gangster and an Italian and we’re not sure about him. WASPs’ main sacrament is cocktails.

Whereas Perry Como is an Italian and a barber instead of gangster so he’s okay? ;)

(Actually, *was*……)

109

JanieM 08.15.12 at 3:38 am

And I can’t believe no one has made any hay here about Romney and the phrase “Anglo-Saxon,” or the phrase “Anglo-Saxon” in general, as if 1066 never happened, either linguistically or otherwise.

*****

Protestant to many just means not-Jewish and not-Catholic. Mormons might not want to be considered Protestant but they want to be treated socially as if they are.

On the other hand, we Worshipers of the Elder Gods, have no desire to be folded into the Protestant ranks. Probably explains why so few of us hold elective office.

Anecdotally, in response to this and many other comments about what a “Protestant” is –

When I was being raised (Italian) (-American) Catholic in the 50s and 60s, “Protestant” definitely meant not-Catholic, but it also definitely meant Christian. So if anyone had ever heard of any worshipers of the Elder Gods, which of course we hadn’t, because they died out with the pagan Romans or something, they would definitely not have been considered “Protestant,” because they wouldn’t have been Christian. (At least, that’s presuming I’m interpreting “Elder Gods” correctly.)

Despite having had a Baptist mother, who nevertheless, if she went to church at all when we were kids, went to Mass with us and my dad, I’m hazy to this day on the differences amongst the Protestant denominations. They were just all those *other* people — who were going to hell along with the pagans and the Jews etc., because they didn’t belong to the one true church. Imagine my confusion when I learned that my mother’s tradition thought it was the one true church, and not only that, they had sins that we didn’t have (touching a deck of cards, drinking alcoholic beverages, dancing…..).

I would say that “one true church” thing is an old story, but sadly, it’s as fresh as it ever was, even if the axes of “the other” have been reshuffled since I was a kid.

110

JanieM 08.15.12 at 3:39 am

Drat the formatting. The first two paragraphs after the asterisks in my previous comment are quotes from Dr. Hilarius, not just the first.

111

Hermenauta 08.15.12 at 4:10 am

I just want to observe that “penetrating moral” can´t be both.

112

Dr. Hilarius 08.15.12 at 4:19 am

JanieM, it’s OK, Cthulhu prefers to rule in secret.

113

Ben Alpers 08.15.12 at 6:19 am

@36 and @80: The purpose of the separation of church and state for most of the framers of the US Constitution was not to create a secular society. Most would have regarded the continuing thriving of Protestantism in the US as a feature, not a bug. The place of religion in American life today may not be a good thing, but it is much more an intended outcome of our constitutional system than an ironic unintended consequence.

114

garymar 08.15.12 at 6:38 am

Wasn’t the Flying Spaghetti Monster one of Cthultu’s hideous and loathsome spawn?

115

Scott Martens 08.15.12 at 7:41 am

Ben@110: No. The founders were not men of ostentatious public religion. True, they were creatures of their time, and although I can’t quote any in particular, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that most of them thought of Catholics, Jews and Muslims as basically barbaric, unenlightened people compared to “free-thinking” Protestants. But the recent history that motivated their political thinking included over two centuries of devastating religious warfare touching almost every nation in Europe, over issues that, when you step back and view them from the standpoint of an enlightened 18th century intellectual, look pretty stupid.

Their faiths were internalized and private if they existed at all, in contradiction to the public adherence and private dissent encouraged by European state churches. Only Jefferson was really public and open about his beliefs, and his beliefs amounted to near-atheist heresy. I think they would look at religion in America today – mass public adherence to the least charitable and most unsupportable aspects of Christianity and near-universal private behaviour that directly contradicts their public beliefs – and be anything but disgusted.

116

Charles Peterson 08.15.12 at 9:18 am

#112 Here, here.

OK the framers would mostly consider the continuation of a kind of Protestantism a good thing, but not, especially not, the race to irrationality and intolerance through religion that we have seen. And it’s not really just irrationality and intolerance. It’s irrationality in the public sphere (quashing attempts to promote the common good, eg global warming, birth control), greed in the personal, and expansion/conquest/intimidation in the parochial. These follow at least partly from the nature of churches and the competition among them.

117

Phil 08.15.12 at 11:08 am

The Church of England (Anglicanism) is identical in America to Episcopalianism, that most WASPy of faiths

The Church of England is many things, but it’s not Protestant. Or rather, it’s many things including Protestant, but it’s not a Protestant church.

118

chris 08.15.12 at 12:11 pm

Wasn’t the Flying Spaghetti Monster one of Cthultu’s hideous and loathsome spawn?

No; Cthulhu disowned him because he wasn’t hideous and loathsome, but rather, friendly and nutritious. He’s sort of the white sheep of the family.

119

Ben Alpers 08.15.12 at 12:29 pm

Scott@115 and Charles@116: I tried to choose my words carefully. I most certainly did not claim that the framers would have been happy with the state of American religion in 2012. What I said was that (unlike, e.g., some in the French Revolution), their goal was absolutely not to rid their society of religion. And most countenanced a more robust role for religion in the public sphere than Jefferson did. See David Sehat’s recent book for a good sense of this.

120

Watson Ladd 08.15.12 at 12:38 pm

The Constitution parade in New York was delayed for three weeks to move it after Tisha b’Av in deference to New York’s Jewish community. Jews served with distinction in the early US armed forces, and in the Continental Congress.

As for the link between religion and politics, Jimmy Carter was the first evangelical president, and Nixon was a Quaker. Not all Republican senators and representatives are evangelical. More reasonable is that evangelism’s focus on a divide between those who are saved and those who are not encourages an unhealthy degree of social inwardness, which is good if you are depending on the kindness of others, and bad if you live in a pluralistic society.

121

Tim Wilkinson 08.15.12 at 12:50 pm

122

Watson Ladd 08.15.12 at 1:13 pm

Tim appears confused. Well, it’s a basic question: Is the social isolation of evangelicals the cause of their views? Given that societies isolated from the rest of society tend to develop ideas of ingroup-vs-outgroup that include more then just the definition of the group, it seems to make sense that evangelicals would have a strong ingroup/outgroup distinction.

This would explain their high rates of charitable giving, as well as their political uniformity. To those like them they are welcoming, but to those outside they retain ideas as a mark of distinguishment. Abortion used to be supported by evangelicals: that reversal was part of marking the saved as different. Religion rarely dictates beliefs.

123

saucyturtles 08.15.12 at 2:09 pm

Re: Croatia. My understanding is that Tito did not actively repress religion, but both discouraged it in favor of his own cult of personality and worked through a nationalized clergy to spread the good word of his own philosophy. Last I knew, priests in Croatia were still paid by the government and this was portrayed to me as a holdover from the old regime (and one reason why they wouldn’t join the EU too soon). I’m afraid this is tangential to the all-important defining of the term WASP, but goes to support the idea that specific state religion policies are not really all that relevant to the religiosity of a population.

124

bianca steele 08.15.12 at 2:29 pm

Characteristically WASP music: James Taylor and Appalachian Spring? The Four Seasons and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik?

125

bianca steele 08.15.12 at 2:43 pm

I struggled with the question of whether to include Charles Ives and John Adams, but “WASP” tends to connote a social sphere more than an ethnicity. No Ives in those Ralph Lauren-esque parties, Copland as much because he’s more accessible than Ives as because he used traditional folk tunes. It isn’t to deny that much of high culture in the US has been created by WASPs, even if the majority of WASPs don’t care about high modernism and would be as happy as not if their kids don’t either (just like anybody else).

126

Maggie 08.15.12 at 3:30 pm

In some regions and locations there are a respectable number of theologically unitarian or “Oneness” pentecostals, also sometimes called “apostolic.” The theological difference is understood and debated. If you take your Apostolic co-worker out to dinner he will explain it to you. (Listening to Christian radio on road trips is also instructive.) Naturally it’s a minority position and serious evangelicals feel pretty strongly about the Trinity. But there’s no in-group/out-group thing over it that I can tell. Outside of Sunday morning and Wednesday night it is treated as a technical issue for religious professionals and enthusiasts. Outside of church, most evangelicals tend to deal with people on a character basis, and if it comes up at all they will sincerely, if somewhat patronizingly, big-tent Catholics, Apostolics, often even Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the “believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins” version of Mere Christianity. Because their real theological bottom line is sola fide.

127

Rakesh 08.15.12 at 4:10 pm

128

Substance McGravitas 08.15.12 at 4:16 pm

I am reminded of the Yacht Rock series.

129

Wonks Anonymous 08.15.12 at 4:34 pm

According to Wikipedia, Christian Scientists follow a kind of trinitarianism. But their trinity is one unique to them rather than Father-Son-Holy Something.

The founders lived over two centuries ago. Things have changed radically, the past is another country. They would likely be perplexed by things today in ways that wouldn’t occur to us. And I imagine the same thing will happen if any of us get cryogenically frozen and woken up centuries later.
But I actually don’t think Jefferson would be that shocked by the Book of Mormon (he wasn’t by Mohammedans or Hindoos), which mostly seems weird relative to other religions because it was written recently enough that its bogosity is more glaring.

130

Rakesh 08.15.12 at 4:35 pm

I could tell from their music that Hall and Oates must be macho aholes; it’s so nice to visual confirmation.

131

Gene O'Grady 08.15.12 at 5:00 pm

I have not read more than about thirty comments, but anyone who thinks that Mormons are Protestants should read Leonard Arrington’s memoirs on the background to the revelation to the Mormon President (I think it was Mr. Kimball at the time) on the admission of blacks to the priesthood. It may have a superficial similarity to some of the things popes have historically done, but it’s as far from the sola scriptura or faith – reason – tradition bases of Protestantism as can be.

Well informed Mormons from polygamous backgrounds (and that means grandparents in polygamous marriages before 1890) have told me, and the historical record seems to bear it out, that polygamy was generally unpopular, particularly with men due to the financial burden and with pretty much everything because of the interpersonal tensions and stress that could be involved. (Before I’m accused of sexism, I should say that the appeal to some women seems to have been (a) limitation of childbearing, which tended to be pretty unrestrained in the American West, (b) a built in social network, which could be very valuable if you were living in Mesquite Nevada and could stand the other women who slept with your husband, and (c) financial security and, like 19th century Western Catholic marriages, a cultural demand that women be better treated and less easily discarded.)

Anscombe’s essay on contraception is silly and self-indulgent (and should give second thoughts to those who use her concept of consequentialism) but I very much liked some of her other Catholic stuff such as on the real presence.

132

J. Otto Pohl 08.15.12 at 6:25 pm

Regarding WASP music I am pretty sure that W.A.S.P. was a metal band from the 1980s. I am not sure about the Protestant or Anglo Saxon part, but most metal fans back then were in fact white males. Like white America as a whole, however, I am willing to bet that German was the single largest component of the group’s ethnic heritage. But, I am sure plenty of people of English ancestry listened to Ozzy, Priest, and Maiden as well.

133

Maggie 08.15.12 at 7:29 pm

On Rachel Maddow’s show the other night she got quite tripped up when Dan Rather said there were no WASPs on either ticket. It was obvious that her difficulty concerned Romney, and probably not out of ignorance of comparative religion. I suspect that the idea that Romney is an outsider with respect to anything of any real significance seems less much less intuitively credible, let alone socially significant, to anyone who’s not a white male. (Probably helped along by the evangelical base’s self-imposed, little remarked-upon stifling of the “Mormons aren’t Christian” meme for Romney’s sake.)

134

Tim Wilkinson 08.15.12 at 7:31 pm

Gene O’Grady – I’d forgotten about the (silly and self-indulgent; agreed) Anscombe essay.

But how do you see it as relating to Anscombe’s concept of consequentialism? I would suppose in an indirect way, since her introduction of a deontology of (irreducible) ‘kinds’ of acts with uniform moral valence so obviously involves arbitrarily selecting a kind (or transcendentally deducing one without really independently specifying what it is) which will make the members of the class of acts under consideration wrong – in this case, obviously wrong because other classes of obviously wrong act such as mutual masturbation belong to the same kind. The kind in question seems to be that of sex acts which are ‘guaranteed sterile’ (whereas sex between two infertile people isn’t ‘guaranteed sterile’ in this sense, oh no).

It must be very satisfying, though, to be utterly convinced of a very specific position that you want to defend, and to find a way through all the various objections and apparent inconsistencies, in the certain knowledge that there is such a way, however labyrinthine and apparently implausible or arbitrary; and much more so if one also knows that there is a huge audience who are ready to accept gratefully whatever it is that you come up with. A bit like being a Supreme Court Judge in certain cases (it is the converse or complement of casuistry), only without any conscious corruption, since however contrived or constructivist (and Anscombe is constantly saying things which appear so; in the rationale for ‘introducing’ double effect for example, and throughout the essay linked in the OP) the reasoning may become, it is still a discovery of the master plan, and not a mere invention (unless you want to get etymological about it). The position is not being constructed, only reconstructed.

135

Rakesh 08.15.12 at 8:18 pm

Will the press investigate whether Romney has been attending services led by lunatics like Randy Bott? Would it be surprising if he has been, or is for the matter, under the pastoral care of a Bott-like character? Who’s Romney’s Jeremiah Wright? I smell an October surprise.

136

Rakesh 08.15.12 at 8:35 pm

OK strike that. Romney says that his father walked with MLK.

137

Rakesh 08.15.12 at 8:36 pm

Oops strike that. Seems that Mitt lied about that.

138

bianca steele 08.15.12 at 8:51 pm

Romney is clearly white and Anglo-Saxon (the only non-Mormon Romney’s Wikipedia lists are all English, and there are several of them). He clearly has several of the traits associated with “WASPs”: wealth, style of dress, social affinities, etc. It’s probably impossible to know what was going through Dan Rather’s head. Is he hung up on “Protestant”? Is he thinking, people like the Bushes don’t think he’s really one of them? Is he deeply sympathizing with the troubles the Mormons have had in the US (even possibly to the point of thinking a Mormon President could be as much as a leap forward for American inclusiveness as an African-American one, and as worthy of everybody’s stringent effortss)? Who knows?

139

Rakesh 08.15.12 at 9:01 pm

I don’t think anyone who refuses even to criticize himself for remaining in a self-consciously racist faith into his 30s should be considered for the Presidency of this country. It’s as if Barack Obama proclaimed his pride in remaining a Black Panther well after being editor of the HLR. The Black Panthers did some good things in regards to community health just as there is probably a well or two more in the third world due to Mormon missionary activity.

140

Uncle Kvetch 08.15.12 at 9:06 pm

Will the press investigate whether Romney has been attending services led by lunatics like Randy Bott?

No.

141

dave heasman 08.15.12 at 9:27 pm

“The Church of England is many things, but it’s not Protestant. Or rather, it’s many things including Protestant, but it’s not a Protestant church.”

The Apostles’ Creed – “I believe in the Holy Ghost, in the Holy Catholic Church..”
(Incidentally this Creed is on the wall of a Lutheran church in London. )

142

Maggie 08.15.12 at 9:37 pm

Right, Catholics aren’t the only denomination that use the theological term “catholic,” just as Republicans aren’t the only ones who use the term “republican.” That doesn’t make Protestants Catholics, nor decide any disputes about the catholicity of various aspects of the Reformation.

143

Tim Wilkinson 08.15.12 at 10:20 pm

One 0f those C of E creeds (Nicene is it?) has ‘one catholic and apostolic church’. I don’t know what the significance of ‘apostolic’ is nor whether it has anything much to do with ‘apostolic’ as mentioned by Maggie @126.

The C of E does have a peculiar intermediate status between (or straddling) Catholic and Protestant, though, apparently. I don’t know exactly what this amounts to; high churches’ incense, crucifers, servers and genuflection all seem pretty cosmetic – having a Lady chapel is maybe a bit more substantive, if it means people are praying to her, or petitioning or whatever they would be doing. But I don’t think even the highest CofE churches do individual confessions, for example, and they are not into transsubstantiation. Perhaps more to do with authority and mediation – the prayer books and the Synod or something?

144

Tim Wilkinson 08.15.12 at 10:26 pm

The Black Panthers did some good things in regards to community health I’m sure there was some other cause they contributed to, as well; feline rights, possibly.

145

chris 08.15.12 at 11:18 pm

Is the social isolation of evangelicals the cause of their views?

Don’t you mean the effect? Their social isolation is something they do voluntarily, not something imposed on them either by circumstance or by the rest of society.

146

Watson Ladd 08.16.12 at 12:12 am

It’s a cycle. You start by thinking movies and rock music are dirty, so you don’t watch them an congregate with likeminded people. And then as more moderate people realize they don’t share views with the group they leave, leaving more extreme views in the mix. There is nothing in Southern Baptist dogma to indicate that global warming is a hoax. But because of that evaporative effect, together with the way we judge reliable information, that happens to be a view they hold to identify with people like them.

147

Maggie 08.16.12 at 12:48 am

I don’t know what the significance of ‘apostolic’ is nor whether it has anything much to do with ‘apostolic’ as mentioned by Maggie @126.

Very little, almost nothing to do with it. The old creedal churches (Roman, Orthodox, Anglican, Scandinavian state churches, etc.) are “apostolic” in the sense of succession of bishops, the idea being that the apostles were the first bishops, although of course they quarrel among themselves as to the validity and authority of each others’ claims to uphold this connection. Pentecostalists call themselves “apostolic” because they believe their practices restore true Christianity as practiced by the original apostles.

148

bianca steele 08.16.12 at 1:37 am

@142
Or for that matter “orthodox”–it doesn’t, necessarily, identify a definite dogma, set of practices, etc.–even though it is also the name of particular religious groups with definite dogmas and so on.

149

Bruce Wilder 08.16.12 at 1:54 am

Maggie: “Catholics aren’t the only denomination that use the theological term “catholic,” . . .”

Perhaps, but, apparently, they are the only ones, who use it, and mean it.

150

GiT 08.16.12 at 2:05 am

“Romney is clearly white and Anglo-Saxon (the only non-Mormon Romney’s Wikipedia lists are all English, and there are several of them). He clearly has several of the traits associated with “WASPs”: wealth, style of dress, social affinities, etc. It’s probably impossible to know what was going through Dan Rather’s head. Is he hung up on “Protestant”?”

Isn’t it a sort of simultaneous geographic, political, and religious schism? All the early church founders are classic New England WASPs. They basically split off religiously and then used the power provided by their religious solidarity to create a little independent fiefdom in Ohio.

So they’re sort of WASPs, except they’re more politically, religiously, and economically autonomous. They have their own little closed network of power, which isn’t really imbricated in the networks other WASPs are in. Linked, but not overlapping.

151

Maggie 08.16.12 at 6:04 am

I think what was going through Rather’s head is probably just that he’s primed, through long professional habit, to make note of minority milestones – less and less impressive ones as time passes and more impressive ones get done. And – perhaps due to his age – he may not realize that “oh look, this rich white guy goes to a church the other rich white guys don’t like” just isn’t going to seem major to everyone. Like Maddow. Neither one of them is really right or wrong, it’s just an interesting thing.

But what’s really interesting to me is that someone as sharp as Maddow could only make that mistake because the evangelicals et al. are helpfully biting their tongues. I wonder whether this can be sustained through November. Religious conservatives I know seem unenthused; the more Republican ones are dead silent, while the more independent make worried sounds about Ayn Rand. It can’t be long before some conscientious commentator on the right puts together the abortion waste disposal, the shredding of people’s employers, etc. with a revisit to why Mormons have not been considered theological Christians. The religious right is supposed to grin and bear it through anything for the sake of anti-abortion, but will they grin and bear actual abortion? If not, will they also learn skepticism about all the “lesser” sins they’d been accustomed to overlook? Some of them are bound to stay home, but how many? Enough to permanently damage the Christian-capital coalition?

152

Scott Martens 08.16.12 at 8:16 am

Maggie, I think that at this point the actual religious content of the religious right is so small now that the real conflict isn’t about which sects get to qualify as acceptable but about what kind of politics a sect has. For example, Catholics and Protestants have very few differences in their politics now, and seeing conservative evangelicals line up behind Catholic candidates for office is far from odd despite a strong and recent history of anti-Catholicism among evangelicals. Mormons are concentrated in a few parts of the American west, and I don’t think most evangelicals have enough contact with them to have more animosity towards them today than towards Catholics.

If you’re already circling your wagons with Catholics to keep Muslim Kenyan Communists out of the White House, really, joining with the Mormons is pretty small potatoes.

Churches are not growing in America, and the evangelicals are no longer managing to convert anyone while losing a majority of their own youth after age 18. Churches in America are still strongly racially segregated, with only a few megachurches and mainline denominations even trying to fight that tendency, and non-white church-goers have more or less the same politics as other non-white people. The predominately white churches are declining for the same kinds of social and demographic reasons as the quiet death of the WASPs. The Barna Group has put out a lot of paper on the subject and finds that its exactly the political issues that are so tightly associated with the religious right that are given as reasons for church rejection. They propose that it’s hard to be a teenager in America and not have friends and peers that use birth control, have abortions, are gay and lesbian, care about the environment, and accept public social services. And when push comes to shove, they identify more strongly with their peers than their churches. They are emphatically not becoming atheists, but they stop identifying with the political signifiers of the American right. And really, it’s not hard to see why: Half of evangelical youth aspire to work in medicine, science or engineering, places where it’s hard to be creationist or fail to take a realistic position on reproductive health. Another fifth want to work in creative industries, notoriously full of independent women and gay people. Jesus talks very little about gay marriage, creationism doesn’t actually have deep theological roots, birth control and abortion are never actually addressed in the Bible, but Jesus goes on a lot about healing the sick and helping the poor. It’s easy to find reasons for taking more liberal views on those subjects.

The thing that I think is permanently damaging the Christian-capital coalition is that the Christian half of the coalition is failing. I think the Romney/Ryan ticket, composed to two people with incredibly poor religious qualifications but having one avowed, lifelong plutocrat and one a radical Randian, might be proof that it’s already become irrelevant. As Cerebus the Aardvark put it: Rich people tend to be rich first and everything else second.

153

Phil 08.16.12 at 8:55 am

having a Lady chapel is maybe a bit more substantive, if it means people are praying to her, or petitioning or whatever they would be doing. But I don’t think even the highest CofE churches do individual confessions, for example, and they are not into transsubstantiation.

No to confession, no to praying to the BVM or any of the other saints – although the idea isn’t so much that they don’t exist or wouldn’t hear you, more that God will hear you, so why pray to anyone else. Transubstantiation (which is a relatively new idea anyway, circa 1000 AD) is more of a grey area; I know Anglican churches which keep a flame burning to show the presence of the consecrated host, and they surely wouldn’t do that if it was a mere symbol. (The story of the Last Supper has an almost Second Amendment inclusiveness – you can get diametrically opposite understandings of the Eucharist out of it, depending on whether you stress the “this is my body” part or the “do this in remembrance of me”.)

You can see the Church of England as a sixteenth-century creation and trace its roots to Tyndale and Wyclif and ultimately Luther, if you want to. Or you can take the view that the English Church wasn’t founded, it was reformed – and, as I saw it put once, asking “where was the church before it was reformed?” is a bit like asking “where was your face before you washed it?”

154

Maggie 08.16.12 at 12:49 pm

Scott, that seems largely correct, with one big caveat: anecdatally, many white churchgoers vote to the right of what one might guess from their social comportment. A person who would not be rude to gay neighbors is not necessarily a person who will vote for gay marriage. A person who is willing to dispense the Pill through their job is not necessarily a person who will vote for the pro-choice candidate. The ideologically committed core appears, at least recently, to lead voting behavior. You can see this most clearly when Mormon and Catholic hierarchs let it be known that divine morality requires that one vote what always happens to be the Republican position. They don’t need to repeat themselves every time it comes up for the idea to take hold. And the hard core has been trending right. (And in an oddly Catholic direction. Part of the story of the post-Roe evangelical-Catholic rapprochement is that the RCC provides a cognitive elite a la Robert P. George – and MS. ANSCOMBE! OMG GUYS IT ALL FITS TOGETHER! – to elaborate the party line on moral and social issues, which is then rhetorically Protestantized by conservative mainline theologians conversant in both traditions, a la First Things, then disseminated without denominational branding everywhere from faculty lounges to ladies’ prayer groups, in various forms. Strangely, the hard “Catholic” line is much more popular among evangelicals than actual Catholics. And a stunning amount of mileage can be gotten out of the peculiar Catholic take on material complicity that extends moral prohibitions into the political and legal realm.)

The Mormons are small potatoes but they have money and organization they are willing to spend on their issues. And on a long term trend their geographical neighborhood and hence their sphere of influence is still growing in population. I don’t think this necessarily cancels out any of what you mentioned, but don’t count the religious right out just yet. Thanks to federalism, their geographical concentration will help them hold out longer, through the theological and discursive branches of the church they’ve got an inbuilt mechanism for developing and promoting movement doctrine. Don’t put it past the Mormons to just throw away a bunch of scruples and go full prosperity-gospel either, though. (Does Romney mean they already have?) They’ve been known to change dogma for political reasons before.

155

Scott Martens 08.16.12 at 1:46 pm

Maggie: It’s certainly true that denominational branding is almost gone in America, and that it’s gone so far that you can actually circulate theological arguments and miscellaneous rationalizations to all varieties of Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and doubtless others without difficulty.

Mormons already have a version of the prosperity gospel (like here) but it’s much more of the namby-pamby Weberian variety (good values and strong families lead to prosperity because it’s important to exercise restraint and provide security for your family) than the hardcore Calvinist and Pentecostal stuff (believe and be pious and Jesus will shower you in moolah!). I do wonder how Romney’s career in the finance industry, and his recent remarks about borrowing money to go to school, can be aligned with Joseph Smith’s nearly socialist preachings on the evils of debt. But I suppose if Prince Al Waleed bin Talal can justify owning the largest single share of Citibank, it can’t be too hard to rationalize away a religion’s economic doctrines.

I’m not in contact with Mormons very much, but I’d give long odds someone in the Church has a copy of Gospel Doctrine around, and has read pages 306-308 in light of the mortgage crisis. It’s hard to see Mormonism becoming the church of unfettered finance capitalism because it has a prophet and founder who lived recently enough to preach explicitly against it. Its own roots and mythos draw heavily on the part of American history when bankers and farmers were mortal enemies, and Mormons sided with the farmers.

I could be wrong – hypocrisy abounds in all faiths – but I’d like not to be.

156

Rakesh 08.16.12 at 3:34 pm

My guess: The evangelicals do not trust Romney not because is Mormon but because Mr. Etch-a-Sketch has flip-flopped on abortion. I am also guessing that were Orrin Hatch the nominee, the evangelical vote would be considered secure (Hatch would have had trouble with the Tea Party, perhaps). Ryan is an over-the-top right-to-lifer, no? Part of the reason that he was chosen even though he is opposed to the IVF-conception of a couple of Mitt’s grandchildren?

157

Ragweed 08.16.12 at 4:23 pm

I know it was a death penalty offense in Switzerland after 1526 – a decade before that little incident in Münster that we don’t like to talk about – but I’ve never been able to find when it was formally repealed.

As I understand it the Swiss objection to Menonites and Amish had less to do with theological differences and more to do with pacifism. The Swiss business model was to round up ones young men, train them to use pikes, and rent them out as mercenaries in most of Europes wars (on whichever side will pay more – or both sides, ideally). Having a bunch of anabaptist pacifists running around encouraging people to avoid mercenary service was frowned upon.

158

piglet 08.16.12 at 4:44 pm

Well here’s an essay taking the position that “Mormon economics shape the G.O.P” .

http://harpers.org/archive/2011/10/0083637/

159

bianca steele 08.16.12 at 4:50 pm

They have their own little closed network of power, which isn’t really imbricated in the networks other WASPs are in.

But Mitt Romney is actually part of those networks. His father was CEO of a Detroit auto company and governor of Michigan. He went to the non-Mormon schools that one would expect any mainline Protestant or assimilated Catholic boy to attend.

160

Wonks Anonymous 08.16.12 at 6:11 pm

Scott Martens, I had heard the evangelical churches are still growing while mainline Protestant ones decline.

161

Maggie 08.16.12 at 6:33 pm

Scott, what’s on pp. 306-308 of Gospel Doctrine? Whatever it may be, my impression of Mormons is that they tend to be highly attuned to the church’s current interpretations and rather unreceptive to arguments inviting them to independently reason from older sources. (Largely, I think, because the sources are such that if you start doing that, polygamy becomes a difficult conclusion to avoid.)

162

Nathan Whilk 08.16.12 at 7:19 pm

Maggie:

See: http://www.archive.org/stream/gospeldoctrinese00smitrich#page/n7/mode/2up

I suspect Scott’s copy is paginated differently and that he was referring to what’s on pages 382 to 386 at this link.

163

burritoboy 08.16.12 at 7:34 pm

Anglicans actually do do confession (it’s not required, on the other hand).

164

Scott Martens 08.16.12 at 8:11 pm

Wonks: It appears not, at least in the Barna Group analysis.

Maggie:

DO NOT MORTGAGE YOUR HOMES. Whenever a panic comes, or there is severe financial depression because of monetary conditions, the people have before them a painful object lesson on the evils of mortgaging, especially of their homes and places of business. [...]

What a blessed condition would result in Zion if the evil of going into debt, of mortgaging the home, could be made very clear to every Latter-day Saint, young and old! Well, indeed, would it be if some of the burdens of the mortgage and its
accompanying sorrows, could be felt and understood by every man who has in contemplation the pawning of his home and land for moneythat he might comprehend its slavery and terror as thoroughly prior to the deed as he is sure to feel it after. In that event, he might be warned in time to avoid the fatal step, and awake as
from a horrid dream to rejoice in his deliverance. [...]

The result of such action is appalling, and its contemplation something fearful to every lover of the people of God, the more so when one possesses a knowledge of how widespread is the evil.

Mortgaging, then, looked upon in its true light, is not only a private burden and detriment, in which a man’s family is thrown out of house and home, and his own abilities, happiness and talents are destroyed or sadly diminished, but it is positively a public crime in a community like ours. Disposing of inheritances in Zion partakes
of the nature of such action as individuals pulling up and selling for money the gold bricks from the streets of the Celestial City. It is intolerable, when looked upon in the right light! The old proverb: “Who goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing” and “Lying rides on debt’s back” should appeal directly to every man who contemplates mortgaging. But if personal appeal is not strong enough, let him remember that his home or farm is likely to go for half of its value to satisfy his debt, and that his family who depend upon him will be left without adequate shelter and support.

I really can’t see a way to interpret this that makes it okay to deal in mortgage-backed financial instruments or even debt instruments in general.

165

Phil 08.16.12 at 8:28 pm

Anglicans actually do do confession (it’s not required, on the other hand).

Well, there you go. I’ve hung around some pretty High churches, but never heard of this. So there aren’t that many lines in the sand between Catholic and Anglican practice – even priestly celibacy is available as an optional extra, as it were – apart from the authority of the Pope, the long-form Lord’s Prayer and of course the non-distribution of the wine. OTOH, there aren’t that many big differences between Methodist and low-church Anglican practice and belief. It really is a broad church.

166

bianca steele 08.16.12 at 9:44 pm

And who else is doing U2charists? That’s practically Catholic right there.

167

piglet 08.16.12 at 9:56 pm

Scott 164, do you have a link to the Barna analysis?

168

Watson Ladd 08.16.12 at 10:18 pm

Scott, just because being in debt is to be avoided doesn’t necessarily mean one can’t lend money as a charitable act to those in need. That advice is closely tied to the economics of a small town where sons depended on having land or a place of business to inherit. Romney was borrowing against assets owned by other people when working for Bain, the other people fully cognizant of the risks, who expected him to do so. He himself had nothing to lose from these deals.

169

Tom 08.16.12 at 10:20 pm

Charles Peterson: … church is an institution which does not yet have a full secular replacement. It is essential for certain functions like mating and localized social connection.

So, I take it you’ve never been in a bar? ;)

170

Phil 08.16.12 at 10:42 pm

bianca – lots of Protestant churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The Plymouth Brethren congregation that my mother went to in her youth used ordinary bread to echo the Last Supper – all except for one member who had decided that unleavened bread was more authentic still, and brought along his own supply. Communion in Anglican churches does tend to involve wafers, but in some churches they’re served with minimal fuss, from something that looks more like a table than an altar.

171

bianca steele 08.16.12 at 11:24 pm

172

J.R. 08.17.12 at 3:20 am

I must admit that I find this phenomenon of Anglicans claiming not to be “protestant,” and in some cases claiming to be “Catholic” quite puzzling. However, I have to chime in.

Several bits of evidence have been offered for this claim including the use of traditional creeds containing the word “catholic,” certain ritual elements such as processions led by crucifers, the use of wafers, and the availability of individual confession.

But the thing is, I grew up Lutheran (ELCA to be precise) all of these elements are either beloved parts of Lutheran tradition, or actual integral parts of the faith. However, no one would argue that Lutherans are not protestant. Hell, if Lutherans are not Protestant, no-one is.

Of course, the question of where the dividing line is, is an interesting one. There are several “Old Catholic” denominations running around who, despite denying the authority of the Bishop of Rome, maintain that they are more “Catholic” than anybody else.

173

Keith 08.17.12 at 4:53 am

re 171, my understanding is that Catholic must be understood to be “Universal”; as in Universal church. It is an Imperialistic claim to be the one true and Universal church. All denominations using it are dissing all the rest as not authentic and hence universal. It is the same as some Marxists rejecting other Marxists as not being really Marxists by not being real inheritors of the Franchise. In the case of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic church it involves the explicit claim that the Bishop of Rome is the literal successor of Saint Peter. It also has the implication that all must one day embrace the true faith, hence it is Universal or Catholic; all of humanity will be absorbed when they see the light like the Borg in Star Trek TNG. As in “my tastes are Catholic”, i.e. I embrace all forms of pleasure. The church embraces and will hold all of mankind within it providing they see the light and accept its dogma.

174

Phil 08.17.12 at 7:56 am

bianca – they say that certain things, once seen, can’t be un-seen. I just hope that isn’t one of them.

175

mds 08.17.12 at 2:41 pm

Nor have Mormons generally pushed back by trying to argue for acceptance as just another Protestant sect. If they had done that, the case for classifying them as Protestants would be stronger.

(1) Anecdotally, at least some of them have pushed back, at least in the portion of the American Southwest where I most regularly encountered them.

(2) Currently, they don’t need to push back, because it’s not merely that fundamentalist trinitarians are biting their tongues over the hell-denying polytheist at the top of the ticket, but that the fundamentalist trinitarian leadership has blithely thrown decades of theological outrage overboard in order to retain political influence. It was back in 2011 that Southern Baptist Convention spokesman Richard Land declared Mormonism to be just another sect of Christianity. Mitt Romney just recently had a confab with various of the American Taliban leadership such as James Dobson and Gary Bauer, and they pronounced him acceptable. I guarantee that Franklin Graham, who used charity resources to fly Sarah Palin around on her book tour, and who thought Donald Trump was a good presidential choice purely because of his embrace of birtherism, will be tongue-bathing Mitt from now until election day. (Billy Graham’s toadying to Nixon was pretty low, but Franklin has long been able to put on a tall silk hat and walk under the lowest of his daddy’s deeds.) So when all these guys say Mormonism is okay now, they are probably de facto declaring them Protestant, since for most of these intellectually vacuous bozos, Protestant means nothing more than “non-Catholic non-cultist.”

176

t e whalen 08.17.12 at 3:07 pm

There’s a decent blog post just waiting to be written about how WASP changed from *Wealthy* Anglo-Saxon Protestant to *White* Anglo-Saxon Protestant between 1957 and 1964. Start with the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Anglo-Saxon_Protestant#Origin_of_term) and rev up your cultstud motors.

177

kent 08.17.12 at 3:38 pm

So being Episcopalian doesn’t count as a WASP?!? (Souter is Episcopalian.) Weird. I was brought up Episcopalian and living it always felt like the very definition of WASP to me.

Wait a minute! According to Wikipedia :

“The first definition of the term was provided by political scientist Andrew Hacker in 1957, although it was already used as common terminology among sociologists:

“They are ‘WASPs’—in the cocktail party jargon of the sociologists. That is, they are wealthy, they are Anglo-Saxon in origin, and they are Protestants (and disproportionately Episcopalian).”

178

Bill Benzon 08.17.12 at 3:45 pm

“Whereas Perry Como is an Italian and a barber instead of gangster so he’s okay? ;)”

Yes, but he wore a slightly more stylish version of the Mr. Rogers sweater and I’d be surprised if he ever wore a necktie that was darker than his shirt. For that matter, I’d be surprised if Sinatra had ever worn a necktie darker than his shirt as well.

179

bianca steele 08.19.12 at 3:37 pm

Search this article for “secular.” I really don’t know.

180

bianca steele 08.19.12 at 3:38 pm

Link fixed.

There must be an HTML preview utility somewhere.

181

James 08.20.12 at 7:28 pm

The Anglo-Catholic end of the Anglican spectrum is broadly theologically catholic with the exception of accepting some of the positions of the Church of Rome regarding the authority of the Bishop of Rome. In particular, it accepts veneration of the saints, transsubstantiation, private / auricular confession; it practices rites such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and clebrates such feasts as Corpus Christi and the Immaculate Conception; and some AC parishes follow the Roman Missal. Some Anglo-Catholics would treat the only good idea of the Reformation to be liturgy in the vernacular, and be a bit suspicious of that.

To be fair, the complete list above is now true of a minority of Anglo-Catholics, and was more exact prior to Vatican II. The liturgical reforms of the council had the effect of splintering the uses of the ACs, so that they now range from Tridentine Rite at one extreme through various “Anglican” modifications in the middle, to use of the new Roman Missal at the other.

However, there are also Protestant Anglicans (with the Evangelicals standing to the Low Church much as the Anglo-Catholics do to the High). So there certainly are / have been Anglican/Episcopalian WASPS. However (for example) Rowan Williams, Michael Ramsey, Dom Gregory Dix and T.S. Eliot would not be among them.

Comments on this entry are closed.