Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dodging the Apocalypse

A friend forwarded this LA Times story about presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, alleging that Bachmann is opposed to the Renaissance and an advocate of the Dark Ages. Well, the Times' story doesn't really support that contention, but that's because their story is such apoor summary (an attempt at a hatchet job, actually) of a much longer story in The New Yorker, which rambles a lot over irrelevancies in Bachmann's past, but it does provide more useful background information for assessing Bachmann, most of it in the latter half of the long article.

To sum up: Bachmann is a certifiable evangelical nut-case (no surprise), an advocate of creationism, former abortion clinic protester, potential theocrat, and former IRS litigator -- but a slacker who stayed home most of the 4 years she worked there because she was on maternity leave. She worked on only six cases and tried exactly one case in court: 1992 Bachmann sought six thousand dollars in taxes from a Chippewa Indian who failed to report three years of income from Youth Project, Inc., a community-organizing nonprofit dedicated to "social justice and peace."
If only she had done the same to a community organizer just getting started in Chicago at that time.

If you read the New Yorker story, you'll see there is evidence for the contention that Bachmann's evangelism extends not only to disdain for the Renaissance, but also leans toward a form of religious theocracy.  The evidence revolves around her admitted respect for an evangelist/filmmaker named Francis Schaeffer, who has been called a key figure in the rise of the Religious Right in politics. According to New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza,
This spring, during one of her trips to Iowa, Bachmann asked the audience if anyone had heard of or seen How Should We Then Live? Many people applauded. She continued:
That also was another profound influence on Marcus’s life and my life, because we understood that the God of the Bible isn’t just about Bible stories and about Bible knowledge, or about just church on Sunday. He is the Lord of all of life. Every bit of life, including sociology, theology, biology, politics. You name the area and walk of life. He is the Lord of life. And so, as we went back to our studies, we looked at studying in a completely different light. Not for the purpose of a career but for a purpose of wondering, How does this fit into creation? How does this fit into the code and all of life that is about to come in front of us? And so we had new eyes that were opened up as we understood life now from a Biblical world view.
Schaeffer “was a tremendous philosopher,” Bachmann told me. “He wrote marvellous books and was very inspirational.” She said that Schaeffer “took Christianity beyond the Bible,” and that he showed “how the application of living according to Christian principles has helped the culture for the better.” She added, “He really tried to call Christians to do more than just go to church...
So what was Schaeffer's film? It consists of
...ten episodes tracing the influence of Christianity on Western art and culture, from ancient Rome to Roe v. Wade. In the films, Schaeffer... condemns the influence of the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Darwin, secular humanism, and postmodernism. 
Well, I can't criticize any criticism of post-modernism, but it doesn't get more obscurantist than that. (Note: a proper definition of "obscurantist" is "opposition to human enlightenment and knowledge", but many on-line definitions are badly corrupted.)
The first five installments of the series are something of an art-history and philosophy course. The iconic image from the early episodes is Schaeffer standing on a raised platform next to Michelangelo’s “David” and explaining why, for all its beauty, Renaissance art represented a dangerous turn away from a God-centered world and toward a blasphemous, human-centered world. 
Well, yes, that was the point, after all.  This is actually old stuff for the creationist/evangelist crowd...   500 or 1000 years old.
...the film shifts in the second half. In the sixth episode, a mysterious man in a fake mustache drives around in a white van and furtively pours chemicals into a city’s water supply, while Schaeffer speculates about the possibility that the U.S. government is controlling its citizens by means of psychotropic drugs. The final two episodes of the series deal with abortion and the perils of genetic engineering.
So you can see, it starts getting a little weird.  Conspirializingly weird.  Schaeffer died in 1984, but his son said,
“Those first episodes are what Francis Schaeffer is doing while he was sitting in Switzerland having nice discussions with people who came through to find Jesus and talk about culture and art,” he said. But then the Roe decision came, and “it wasn’t a theory anymore. Now ‘they’ are killing babies... 
And weirder yet:
"We had been warning that humanism followed to its logical conclusion without Biblical absolutes is going to go into terrible places, and, look, it’s happening right before our very eyes. Once that happens, everything becomes a kind of holy war.."
And even weirder:
Francis Schaeffer ...was a major contributor to the school of thought now known as Dominionism, which relies on Genesis 1:26 [sic]...
According to the Wiki,
And God blessed [Adam and Eve] and God said unto them, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Genesis 1:28 (KJV)
Christians typically interpret this verse as meaning that God gave humankind responsibility over the Earth, although theologians do not all agree on the nature and extent of that "dominion".
And the same Wiki defines "Dominionism":
...(also called subjectionism) is the tendency among some conservative politically-active Christians, especially in the United States, to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action. 
Lizza quotes a woman named Sara Diamond,
...who has written several books about evangelical movements in America, has succinctly defined the philosophy that resulted from Schaeffer’s interpretation: "Christians, and Christians alone, are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns."
Lizza continues,
In 1981, three years before he died, Schaeffer published “A Christian Manifesto,” a guide for Christian activism, in which he argues for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe v. Wade isn’t reversed.
Then we get to Nancy Pearcy, another author that Bachmann likes so much: 2005, the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked Bachmann what books she had read recently, she mentioned ...Pearcey’s [book, “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity”] which Bachmann told me was a "wonderful" book.

Today, one of the leading proponents of Schaeffer’s version of Dominionism is Nancy Pearcey, a former student of his and a prominent creationist. Her 2004 book... teaches readers how to implement Schaeffer’s idea that a Biblical world view should suffuse every aspect of one’s life. 
In the Wiki link for Pearcy, she disputes being a Dominionist:
Ryan Lizza described Pearcey as a leading proponent of Dominionism and a prominent creationist; Pearcey disputes the label "Dominionist", noting that she had never heard the term before reading Lizza's New Yorker article...
I note that this comment had to appear today -- the New Yorker story is dated tomorrow (August 15). So, clearly Pearcy is keeping tabs on things.  Maybe a little more research into Schaeffer's alleged association with Dominionism is needed.  I note that a search of "Francis Schaeffer Dominionism" turns up many links that dispute the Dominionist label, and blame Sara Diamond for inventing it.  For instance this one picked at random:
Others might bring up Schaeffer’s book, A Christian Manifesto (Crossway, 1981). For the Dominionist watcher Sarah Diamond, this book, and this book alone, seems to be the reason she labels Schaeffer a Dominionist. But did she read the book with an open mind, or did she just read it as source material for a term that she invented (Dominionism). From reading her writings it seems as though she needed to divide all the people involved with the Christian Right, a political movement, into different categories. I would probably have done the same thing if I had been in her shoes. We need to categorize different political groups so that we have an educated and well informed electorate. But with Schaeffer, it can be proven that she has put him in the wrong category. There has been too much read into what people think Schaeffer was writing about in A Christian Manifesto. For what this book is mostly about is how to construct a Christian legal foundation for fighting abortion. If you want to call Schaeffer a "godfather," don’t call him the "godfather of Dominionism." Call him "the godfather of the anti-abortion movement/Pro Life Movement." If you read A Christian Manifesto from that point of view, things will start to fit together in your understanding of Schaeffer’s Christian Worldview.
True or not, there is certainly a great deal to dislike about Schaeffer, Pearcy and their admirer, Michele Bachmann.  But is there anything to offset these negatives if our choice in the 2012 election becomes Bachmann vs. Obama?

Bachmann believes in charity, being a foster mother:
...the Bachmanns took in twenty-three girls; I spoke with one of them (she did not want her name used), who stayed with the Bachmanns for three and a half years and now lives in Colorado. She said, "I owe the Bachmanns everything. They offered me the structure I needed and taught me how to figure out goals. They really encouraged me to figure out who I was rather than who I was becoming. I turned my life around one hundred and eighty degrees."
That's a lot of girls.  But the weird part (yet again) is that almost all these girls had eating disorders.  Eating disorders?  Go figure.  I wouldn't condemn anyone for charitable acts, and foster-parenting could be a legitimate value to someone for various reasons.

Maybe Michele had an eating disorder and simply wants to help these girls, but suspect the greater motivation is that she takes her evangelizing seriously enough to indoctrinate 23 girls into Christianity.  It doesn't sound like they had to endure too many exorcisms, but personally, I'd take bulemia over Christianity any day, month or year.

What else can we say about Michele?  According to The New Yorker, she and her husband helped start a school with some others. Ostensibly non-denominational, but both Bachmann's left the administration of the place after objections that their religious agenda was violating the school charter. 
I'm running short on good things to find, but here's something, depending on your interpretation of it:  Bachmann's a typical Religious Right in being mixed up about the relation between religion and freedom:
“If there was one word on a motivation or world view, that one word would be ‘liberty,’ ” Bachmann told me in early August, when I asked about her world view. “That’s what inspires me and motivates me more than anything—just the concept of freedom, liberty, what it means. Whether it’s economic liberty, religious liberty, liberty in our finances, liberty in being able to choose the profession we have. That’s what inspired my relatives to come here back in the eighteen-fifties. It was the concept of liberty. That’s what motivates me today as well."
Maybe it's pandering to get the Tea Party vote, maybe not. She appears deeply opposed to slavery,
...the latest Bachmann controversy: an interview with George Stephanopoulos, in which she defended an earlier statement that the Founders worked tirelessly to end slavery. ...In “Christianity and the Constitution,” the book she worked on with Eidsmoe, her law-school mentor, he argues that John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams “expressed their abhorrence for the institution” and explains that “many Christians opposed slavery even though they owned slaves.” They didn’t free their slaves, he writes, because of their benevolence. “It might be very difficult for a freed slave to make a living in that economy; under such circumstances setting slaves free was both inhumane and irresponsible.”
Though The New Yorker tries to suggest that Bachmann is actually rationalizing for slavery, I don't buy it.

She seems opposed to Socialism:
In one pamphlet, she wrote that federal education law “embraces a socialist, globalist worldview; loyalty to all government and not America.” In another, she warned of a “new restructuring of American society,” beginning with “workforce boards” that would tell every student the specific career options he or she could pursue, turning children into “human resources for a centrally planned economy.”
But Bachmann in 1976 supported the election of evangelical Democrat/Socialist Jimmy Carter. Go figure.

Etc. I think I've got the picture. It ain't pretty, but is she Count Dracula?  Despite the potential "Dominionism" aspect (I'm just not knowledgable enough about contemporary Christianity to pass judgment on it), I suspect she's more like an evangelical Elmer Fudd. Lot's of passion for killing bunny rabbits, but largely clueless about which end of the gun to use.
We turn to the underlying point to all this. 

I know we can't survive another term of Obama.

It's certainly best to do everything possible to keep her from being nominated and get a secular candidate (though a Mitt Romney strikes me in some ways as a worse candidate), but what if we don't?  You're in the voting booth, the two choices are before you:  Obama or Bachmann? 

You think:  Obama is destroying the economy, eviscerating the military, denuding our freedom, leading us into global war--and he'll complete the job in a second term.  What will Bachmann do?

I'm going out on a limb here and say I'm pretty sure we could survive a President Bachmann -- because anything overtly religious that she tried to impose would be stopped (including any attempt to repeal abortion). The danger of a Christian theocracy is decades from now, not the next election. And in that time, if Objectivism takes hold, the Religious Right will find a much more capable opposition.

Many people I know are arguing that we must vote for Obama instead of any Christian because the Christians will impose a theocracy--but it does no service to the country to exaggerate their danger in the next election. If Obama wins, it is not an exaggeration to say: you can kiss this country goodbye.

I've said it till I'm blue in the face, but since I was the only one to correctly predict how destructive Obama would be, I'll say again just how destructive his second term could be: it may well lead to the complete end of all businesses in America, mass starvation, rampant riots (the riots in Britain are barely a taste), world war and death on a scale you can hardly imagine.

That's the short answer, but it's a reasonably high probability scenario. Maybe not 50%, but high enough.  Do you want to roll those dice?

You say: Robb's going off on his rant again. Someone get him a Xanax.

For those of you who think that, ask yourself: what would you have thought would happen to the world in 1938? I'd bet you would have considered World War 2 and the death of 100 million people in the next 7 years... inconceivable.

To borrow a line from Inigo Montoya, that word may not mean what you think it does.

Re-read Atlas Shrugged. Was Ayn Rand any less pessimistic than I am?

So gauge your decision in that light:  Obama is certain destruction, but Bachmann is potential destruction-- someone who sounds like she might like to impose a theocracy, and doubtless a lot of Christian supporters would be pushing her toward that end.  But can she get away with it? 

In a recent podcast, even Leonard Peikoff has admitted he underestimated Obama's danger to the survival of the country, and advocated voting for Republican's across the board in the mid-term election we just had. His point was essentially the one I've been making for a longer time: it does no good to claim a moral righteousness for opposing religion if you're dead.

You can listen to his comments here if you need proof ("Is religion more dangerous in America than socialism or collectivism", July 20, 2009).

Contrast to his comments on May 17, 2010, only 10 months later ("Given the Obama Administration and your stand on Republicans, will you support a vote for a Republican in November?").

So before anyone gets too wrapped up in demonizing every candidate who ever went to church, spoke in tongues and shouted "hallelujah!", consider the alternative: one candidate is a man who is working by conscious, deliberate intent to destroy the United States as rapidly as he can--Obama.

Then concretize the worst consequences of the worst Christian candidate out there right now -- Michele Bachmann (no, it's not Palin).

One candidate will destroy by malice aforethought, using nuclear weapons (possibly literally). One will stumble forward in a religious ecstasy, erecting random crucifixes, ranting about God, creating a few random programs to advocate for religion, but in the end doing very little that will materially affect your life.

The other will destroy your life.

ON the upside (if there is one), should the prospect of a President Bachmann materialize, I think she will at least buy us a few years time to spread the right ideas, especially among the Tea Party.

I can't say the same about Obama.  Where Bachmann will try to impose some early steps toward theocracy, Obama is already imposing many steps toward a communist totalitarianism.

For another upside, in a certain very important sense, where Obama's election provided the chance to permanently discredit the Marxist Left (when the NY Times turns on you, as they have, you're done) and galvanize the secular Right, there is likewise an argument to be made (I offer it guardedly) that a President Bachmann will discredit the Religious Right and galvanize the secular Left--and that would leave the field open in 2016 (maybe) for someone more rational.  

I'm not saying it is certain Bachmann will be nominated. I very much hope she won't be, and she should be opposed at all costs.  But if she is nominated, how would you decide to vote? That's the issue. Some people I know are campaigning on a platform of "everyone has to vote for Obama instead of any religious candidate from the Right!"

But that's almost a vote of suicide.

In my view, a second Obama term is so dangerous to the existential survival of the country that there's very few candidates I won't vote for. Huckabee would be one, but he's dropped out (for now--I'm betting he fishes for a vice-presidential slot). Maybe I'm underestimating the danger of Bachmann--possibly;  I might change my mind in the coming months.  But if it gets so bad that I have no choice in the coming election for anyone who offers me any advantage over suicide under Obama--it will be time to get out of Dodge.


  1. "[Obama's second term] may well lead to the complete end of all businesses in America, mass starvation, rampant riots (the riots in Britain are barely a taste), world war and death on a scale you can hardly imagine."

    I'm sorry, "the complete end of all businesses in America"? This is just completely, completely implausible. You leave aside some important facts:

    1. Should Obama be re-elected, Republicans will likely retain control of Congress (if not expand their control). Four years of gridlock will not lead to the apocalypse you describe.

    2. Republican control of Congress (very likely) combined with a Republican president (your preference) doesn't have a great track record. People like to complain that it was Obama who saddled us with so much of the latest debt, but the truth is that a huge portion of it was chosen by Bush and his GOP Congress. Gridlock, again, seems like a far better option.

    3. Your apocalypse (except for the war) didn't even happen during the Great Depression or World War II, when almost all of the economic statistics were worse. There was no end to all businesses in America, even though FDR was supremely more dictatorial than Obama (and even the war was, arguably, someone else's fault).

    4. You say "re-read Atlas Shrugged," and that Ayn Rand was as pessimistic as you are. Atlas Shrugged is not and was never intended as an accurate prediction of our future, because it is based on a premise which by Rand's own admission is unrealistic. It is unrealistic for a single man to convince all of the barons of industry to go on strike. I'll agree with you that if someone does that, things could get pretty bad. But no one will do that, many intelligent people will remain in business coping with the latest government intrusions, finding work-arounds, even creating new innovations (look at Apple), and we will continue to muddle through. This muddling will be extremely painful for many (I will likely be out of a job, for instance). Apocalypse is a good literary device, and some of us with a flair for the dramatic like to make ominous predictions of it. But in history the end usually comes with a whimper.

    5. Capitalism is amazing and has created an enormous amount of wealth in decades after World War II. I don't say this to condone it, but to state a fact: it will take a long, long time for an inept bumbler like Obama to destroy it all. Your apocalyptic scenario gives them man credit for genius he does not possess.

    I'm not trying to argue for a vote for Obama. But I would certainly caution against a vote for Bachmann, especially when there's a third option you've neglected to mention: sitting this one out.

  2. The danger of a Christian theocracy is decades from now, not the next election.

    There is no danger of a Christian theocracy. The Objectivists that make this argument are ignorant of the demographic trends of America. America is likely to become a majority Hispanic country by the second half of this century. White people will be the minority. The Christian theocracy assumes that the country will be dominated by old school white, European Christianity. But that is not what we will get. What we will get is an increasing Hispanized culture; ie an egalitarian Leftist culture with Christian window dressing. The future of America if nothing changes and if it has a future is something like Mexico or Brazil.

    The great danger was and is from the Left. Conservatives like Bachmann are not going to implement a religious theocracy. They will me-to the Left and assist in the ever growing transformation of America into an egalitarian, "social-justice" nation. The version of altruism that dominates the West right now is the secular, egalitarian Leftist version NOT the old-school Christian version. That version is dead. Objectivists are beating a dead horse.

    Also, as far as secular Leftists ever putting up a non-statist candidate - forget it. The secular Left is hellbent on civilizational destruction. There is nothing good about secular Leftism. They are EVIL. Leftism is something that has to "burn itself out" and that will likely mean the destruction of the West and a muli-century setback.

    Bachmann is a wacky Conservative but she is no theocrat and she will implement no theocracy. That's pure nonsense. At best she might be a Reagan type. At worst she is another George Bush. Was Bush a theocrat? He wasn't and neither is Bachmann. I would pull the lever for her over Obama in a heart beat. Where you are definitely right is that America and the West can not survive an Obama second term. At least not without massive damage.

    D. Bandler


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