Wednesday, September 13, 2006


. . .

In my last installment (American Idolatry, August 29), I observed that America’s popular music descends from the whining complaint of American rural folk. Resentment causes Americans to listen to singers who sound like them and with whom they can identify, rather than singers who sound much better than them. Children prefer finger-painting to Diego Velazquez because they feel at home in the world of children and feel lost in the world of results. Americans who grew up in the 1950s and afterward remain in a perpetual childhood of peer identification, hostile to all authority.

That is not quite true, I concluded in the August 29 essay; most Americans acknowledge the Bible as a supreme authority. But that is not quite the case if the Bible is to be taken “literally”, that is, the way an ignorant man would read it on the surface. In that case, the authority is not the Bible at all, but rather the authority of the ignoramus who reads it. This writer accepts the authority of the Bible, but confesses his inability to understand most of it without the assistance of learned commentators. Paradoxically, biblical literalism is a resentment-driven revolt against authority.

. . .

There is a well-developed argument that Islam is “a monistic paganism”, and that Allah is “the old pagan pantheon rolled up into one”, as German Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig wrote some 85 years ago. I reported Rosenzweig’s views three years ago in this space. Pope Benedict offered a devastating judgment on Islam’s ability to reform, but it was intended only for the ears of his inner circle of students, not for public circulation. A scandal erupted last year over the pope’s remarks on Islam to a seminar at his summer residence, as reported by Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, on a Florida radio talk show. My report in this space contributed to the notoriety of the incident. Father Fessio ultimately apologized for making the popees views public.

That is the misery of the West. The evangelicals have no fear of offending Muslims and say what they think; the crafty old men of the Vatican understand the issues far better, but are afraid to speak them above a whisper.

. . .

The fact is that Americans are beholden to the Old World and will be until Americans can produce minds with the depth and scope of a Soren Kierkegaard, a Karl Barth or a Franz Rosenzweig. As I noted last year, the most important theologian working today in the United States might be an Orthodox Jew, Michael Wyschogrod. It is well and good to throw off the authority of the compromised and often corrupt state churches of Europe, but the threadbare homespun of evangelical thinking is very, very far from being a replacement.

It is not that Americans are inherently stupid. They make themselves stupid by resenting authorities that seem distant and alien to them. Until that changes, the evangelicals will be America’s non-commissioned officers, not its generals and statesmen.

— Spengler, Fundaresentalism, Asia Times Online, September. 12, 2006


Post a Comment

<< Home