Spiritual Battles and Contemporary Politics

An interesting essay by Joseph Bottum.

Beginning with the abolition of slavery, the bitter battles of American political life have often been fought over spiritual issues. It’s hard to know, for example, what else Prohibition was about. And yet the great moralizing and spiritualizing of American politics feels different these days, more complete, more all-encompassing. It’s as though our public life were not a political stadium in which spiritual footballs sometimes appear; rather the field itself has become religious. Our public life is now a supernatural game and our purely political concerns have been reduced to nothing more than footballs with which we happen to play that public game of spiritual redemption.

RTWT. I think there’s considerable truth to this: much “progressive” politics is driven by people seeking meaning in their lives, and the ostensible issues are merely markers in that search. On the other hand, though, much “progressivism” is simply about an individual’s assertion of a status position (actual or desired), and the apparent political issue is merely a “football” (to use Bottum’s term) in this status game…no spiritual angst necessarily involved. And one important aspect of status in today’s world, in many circles at least, is being perceived as “cool.”

Related to which, Greg Gutfield’s book Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You looks interesting:

Behind every awful, dangerous decision lurks one evil beast: the Cool.  
From politics to the personal, from fashion to food, from the campus to the locker room, the desire to be cool has infected  all aspects of our lives. At its most harmless, it is annoying. At its worst, it is deadly, on a massive scale. 

(via American Digest)

5 thoughts on “Spiritual Battles and Contemporary Politics”

  1. >The Republican Congress is the Taliban. President Obama is a Communist. Wisconsin’s governor is a Nazi.<

    frank marshall davis couldn't be reached for comment.

  2. He certainly nails it. “Sanctimonious” has its origin in sanctity.

    def: “making a show of being morally superior to other people.”

  3. I just about puked when The Zero (to coin a Danism) referred to those trying to implement Obamacare as ‘doing God’s work”

  4. Sometimes they are spiritual issues as stalking horses for something else. E.g., environmentalism seems even more like generalized spiritualism than Prohibition does. (Also ritual purity: I am amused whenever I run across the ideas of, um, that guy trying to argue that there are half a dozen main types of human concerns and the right is the one that cares about the ritual purity one. The politics of trace chemicals in water and of muddy footprints of oilworkers defiling Alaskan woodlands seem to have passed him by. But I digress.) And notice how the moral outrage about the death of birds in e.g. oil spills transforms into sophisticated indifference (truly? you want to stop progress for that many birds? my friend, don’t you realize how many birds are killed just by domestic cats?) when birds are killed by something like windfarms that advances the faction’s agenda.

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