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Chapter 15: The Worldwide Explosion of Pentecostalism Contrasting Views of the Corporation

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What Conservative Crack-up?

by Christopher Chantrill
April 04, 2005 at 2:37 pm

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WITH TERRI Schiavo dead and Social Security reform in the balance, the pundits are suddenly calling for a “conservative crack-up.” Yet sales of The Purpose-driven Life have tripled in the last two weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal weekly Sales Index, beating out the best-selling fiction title. Perhaps readers of The New York Times are rushing out to buy it after its March 27 Sunday Magazine featured a megachurch in Surprise, Arizona, run by ex-Microsoftie Lee McFarland.

The people calling for a conservative crack-up are, like former Senator Bill Bradley, distracted by surface effects. The Republican Party may look to him like a pyramid, with the Scaife, Olin, and Bradley Foundations at its base, but it is really like an iceberg, nine-tenths underwater. Republican political power comes not from its money men but from something deeper in the American experience.

Liberal economist Robert William Fogel caught a glimpse of this in The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism. His 2001 book warned fellow egalitarians that the United States was in the middle of a religious revival similar to the Great Awakening of 1738-40. If they didn’t watch out, the new awakening would sweep all before it and sweep all the egalitarian experts out of their comfortable sinecures.

Fogel argued that egalitarians should get to work and co-opt the new religious revival (tell that to the angry left). Although egalitarians had done a tremendous job improving the material condition of the poor, they had neglected the spiritual side of things. As a result, America’s poor suffered from a “maldistribution of spiritual resources” that egalitarians should fix with a national program to provide the poor in spirit with spiritual values such as a “sense of purpose,” a “vision of opportunity,” a “sense of the mainstream of work and life,” a “strong family ethic,” “a sense of community” and so on. If they didn’t do it then “old lights” from the Christian right would do it instead.

You can read all about the maldistribution of spiritual resources in books like Ken Auletta’s The Underclass, in Jesse Lee Peterson’s From Rage to Responsibility, or more graphically in Theodore Dalrymple’s narrative of Life at the Bottom of the British underclass. When people don’t need to work, they go bad rather quickly. Underclass men that go from woman to woman, siring children and abandoning them, do not live like debonair boulevardiers but insanely jealous monsters. But there is a way out of the spiral of despair.

Down in Surprise, Arizona, one of the members of The New York Times’s featured megachurch was Joe Garcia, a computer technician. He had “defeated a long-running addiction to alcohol and cocaine” and then been saved, with his wife Jodi, at a Christian revival. Now he attends a megachurch, with its sense of purpose, its strong family ethic, and its sense of community, all delivered without benefit of liberal egalitarians.

Then there’s Jesse Lee Peterson. Abandoned by his father and resented by his mother, he found as a young man that he could get from the government “$300 a month, plus rent money, food stamps, and vocational training.” What followed was ten years of partying, drugs, and sex, and rage fueled by Louis Farrakhan. One day he learned from a minister “about human hatred and the destructiveness it brings to peoples’ lives.” He started praying and learned to dissolve the hatred he felt towards his father, his mother, his stepfather, and white America.

Democrats and liberals have taught us a different story, an appealing narrative about how heroic altruistic humanists and revolutionaries stormed the ramparts of bourgeois privilege to secure a decent standard of living for the poor and the unfortunate. But they leave out the consequence of their altruism: Fogel’s maldistribution of spiritual resources. How could this have happened?

The greatness of the United States comes not from the altruism of its powerful elites but from the persistent hunger of its people for responsibility and self-government. Again and again that hunger erupts: in a single life as one angry man shakes off drugs and rage for personal responsibility, in the voluntary associations large and small in which ordinary people practice self-government, and in the periodic Great Awakenings in which millions of Americans renew their faith.

Again and again the spirit of America has called its peoples to responsibility. In the words of Barton Stone, a revivalist in the early nineteenth century, “when we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakening from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.” Again and again the American people have responded to this call.

Let’s not get too excited about conservative crack-ups. The conservative iceberg will break up and melt when it’s good and ready, and not before.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Action

The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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