The American Religion and the Republican Campaign

A guest posting by Richard Nielsen

Pundits as well as voters were surprised when Rick Santorum emerged from the Republican pack to challenge Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus vote, and by Ron Paul’s strength in New Hampshire, and by the surges earlier of Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Governor Perry, along with latecomer Ambassador Jon Huntsman who has just exited the race.

What is required is a unified theory that covers and explains these events, which would have little more interest than a campaign for a Lion’s Club executive were it not for the fact that all of them think they should be President of the United States.

Any such theory must grapple with the nature of the Republican Party – a party funded by the wealthiest Americans but with a base of disaffected proletarians mobilized by an Evangelical religion. This is a marriage made in hell that can’t be disentangled without greatly diminishing the power of both parties.

What we are witnessing, therefore, is not a campaign to win the support of the American people – that may come – but an exercise designed to satisfy the base.

Governor Romney and latecomer former Ambassador Huntsman are both Mormons, a religion that spends much of its time and effort in genealogical “research” designed to prove that the Mormons are “chosen” – literally Latter Day saints.

Rick Santorum, proving his orthodoxy, emphasizes “family values,” but then proposes putting an end to contraception. It’s impossible, of course, but what the hell, this is only a primary.

Governor Perry seems content to play on the dark side, demonstrating his respect for family values by citing the number of executions that took place on his watch as Governor of Texas.

Ron Paul is by far the most interesting of the lot because he is not an Evangelical. He does not go so far as to say he isn’t – that would be suicide – but his mantra is freedom, libertarianism – blaming government for war, taxes and the limitations it places on the right to hunt. His “success” brings us closer to the truth of what is actually going on.

Harold Bloom, in his book The American Religion, and Philip Lee, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Atlantic Canada, author of Against the Protestant Gnostic, both identified the American religion as Gnostic – a Christian heresy since it believes that a special relationship to God provides them with secret knowledge; a reward for having chosen Jesus as their personal saviour – an act that unerringly guides them to the truth.

Harold Bloom felt this belief was held by most Americans, not only Christian Americans. Many of his countrymen, like Ron Paul, substitute the U.S. Constitution for the certainties of the Bible, and a belief in American exceptionalism.

Surely in a time of trouble such as this, God will not withhold his guidance to a nation to which he had shown such favour in the past.

So the candidates, poor sinners like the rest of us, are required to go before the public eighteen times so that those Republicans with a vote and some help from God can determine who is worthy and who is not.

What makes American Evangelicals so influential is that they have actually earned the respect and gratitude of the proletariat they represent. They are in many cases the only people who provide aid to those in need, compensating for the failure of their government to do so.

What is essential in this ludicrously dangerous situation is the role of the American rich in lavishly funding such a dubious enterprise in democracy, leaving the rest of us with little option but to pray that the scales will fall from the eyes of the American voter to permit them to see this charade for what it is – a conspiracy by the rich to derail the egalitarian impulses latent in all true democracies.

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8 responses to “The American Religion and the Republican Campaign

  1. I’ve always been convinced that it is the still-unresolved English Civil War being fought in America. The Cavaliers are the old elites (New England Republicans allied with aspirational liberals) and the Roundheads are the new Puritans, evangelicals, Reagan Democrats and the true class warriors from both left and right. While the Civil War played itself out in Northern Ireland and South Africa, it is still alive having been transplanted to the eastern seaboard of America in the 17th Century.

  2. I think Jeffrey Dvorkin’s observations are fascinating but I subscribe to Harold Bloom’s view that the American Religion represents a sharp break with European Christianity, except of course for the Cathars, the original Gnostic community suppressed by the French. Their memory is assured by the fact that 350,000 of them committed suicide rather than change their faith.

    Richard Nielsen

  3. Michael Gundy

    The Gnostic view runs counter to the inclusive teachings of the Jesus in the Gospels. All this has a rather sinister “1984” ring to it.

  4. This is worthy analysis. One added element is that with American Exceptionalism and belief in being “chosen”, is an underlying (overlaying) sense of insecurity. Not new, it is evident from its emergence as a global power early last century. Perhaps with a subconscous identification with the Cathars, most Americans, and American elites (including many Democrats) believe America is un(der) appreciated in the broader world and perpetually under threat by regressive international forces ganging up on them. Rarely articulated, they fear their system is fragile. Especially since the fall of communism, the French have risen as a symbol of anti-Americanism. The ghosts of the Cathars?

    Mike Sky

  5. Nice analysis. Pretty pathetic state of affairs. The state of the discourse in the Republican race is beyond belief. Great theatre. Not so great when one realizes that this is for real.

  6. What I find so strange is that orthodoxy seems to be flourishing in so many places, such as Israel. There the “HAREDIM” apparently can get away with such undemocratic practices as wanting to segregate women, forcing them to wear more “modest” clothes etc. Like orthodox Muslims ?