By Ron West for FRN
In my observations of Russia, I’ve noticed a consistent misapprehension of reality concerning the West. The West, particularly the USA, is a social phenomenon that largely defies self-understanding, let alone understanding from without, even by the titan observer Solzhenitsyn, who lived a number of years in Vermont.
To begin this analysis, we’ll note that the USA’s ‘enlightenment’ founders were Deists, and James Madison’s animus to Christianity was not an animus towards a deity per se, but an animus towards political Christianity and the history of the several incarnations of western church meddling in the affairs of men and nations, pointing to a particular arrogance:
“Experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and virtue of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”
This thinking among our brighter founding minds is perhaps best personified in the great philosopher of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine:
“The Deist needs none of those tricks and shows called miracles to confirm his faith, for what can be a greater miracle than the creation itself, and his own existence? There is a happiness in Deism, when rightly understood, that is not to be found in any other system of religion. All other systems have something in them that either shock our reason, or are repugnant to it, and man, if he thinks at all, must stifle his reason in order to force himself to believe them. But in Deism our reason and our belief become happily united. The wonderful structure of the universe, and everything we behold in the system of the creation, prove to us, far better than books can do, the existence of a God, and at the same time proclaim His attributes. It is by the exercise of our reason that we are enabled to contemplate God in His works, and imitate Him in His ways. When we see His care and goodness extended over all His creatures, it teaches us our duty toward each other, while it calls forth our gratitude to Him.”
Other than Madison, the author of our Constitution, and Paine, another great American ‘enlightenment’ Deist was Benjamin Franklin, considered the greatest scientist of the age in Europe during his own lifetime; and notable in his uppermost thoughts concerning the founding of America’s so-called ‘liberal democracy’ at the time of our Constitutional Convention, were his doubt. When the crowd shouted to him when emerging from the final meeting of the states delegates: “Mr Franklin, Mr Franklin, what form of government have you given us?” Franklin replied “A republic, if you can keep it.” We couldn’t.
To equate secularism with atheism, per the intentions of those American ‘enlightenment’ founders (not all of our founders were enlightenment inspired thinkers, notably John Adams), is a patent mistake; moreover America’s ‘enlightened’ founders were of an educated class that seriously doubted whether the social experiment would work. And it did not work, largely because of foreseen dangers, whether a lack of social maturity or, alternatively stated, the lower human nature.
When I see the term ‘Cultural Marxism’ trained on the USA’s subsequently resultant social circumstances in wake of the failed American revolution’s founding ideas and charter, it puts the hair up on this dog’s back; as it too often appears to be a simplistic jingoism little different from liberals assigning a broad neo-Nazi paintbrush to the term ‘Alt-Right.’ This is not necessarily a matter of ‘the truth is somewhere in between’, but more a matter of an intertwined mosaic of social allergies where several antigens are not stimulating a proper immune response, almost certainly because from this republic’s inception, there was papered over a multiple fracture rather than a coalescence. There is blame aplenty to be assigned to multiple parties in the ensuing history.
I will wander afield here for a moment, for the benefit of my Russian friends, and by way of suggestion; consider the wide gulf of experiential difference between your own experience, that of a more or less consistent or singular Christian experience, that is Orthodoxy, and that of the USA; an un-amalgamated 1,500 or so Christian faith groups that can be sorted by meta-group, wing, denomination, theology, and/or family. Your experience of emancipation from feudalism versus our experience of rapidly subjugating a continent for as many motives as there had been multiple actors; whether Calvinists so intolerant Europe would not tolerate them, too many mercantilists desiring a Baron’s station and privilege to count, tens upon tens of thousands of Europe’s undesirables, whether petty criminals & the mildly retarded or insane, reflected in Europe’s vacated prisons, the inevitable Catholic proselytizing, White slavery euphemistically called ‘indentured servitude’, and finally, Black slavery. This is not a comprehensive list.
As a social psychologist, with an understanding that biographical history underlies socialization, I would not presume an intimate understanding of the Russian mind reflected in that great nation’s national psychology; nor would I expect a Russian should presume an intimate understanding of the many social tensions integral to the multiple personalities of the USA.
Back on topic of the USA and the underpinning of how we became a dissolute, aggressive and sociopathic national POLITIC (not as a people in some comprehensive sense), firstly we must toss out the idea that the USA is a ‘liberal democracy’ in the sense of a “godless anti-Christian “humanism”” on account of its Enlightenment founders. Rather the negative American qualities stemming from the lower nature of man markedly & substantially come from the Christian community as much as or more so than anywhere else in American society. At this point I’ll ask my more open-minded conservative friends to swallow hard and keep reading. My liberal friends will not necessarily like what will be coming either.
Recalling Thomas Paine’s “It is by the exercise of our reason that we are enabled to contemplate God in His works, and imitate Him in His ways. When we see His care and goodness extended over all His creatures, it teaches us our duty toward each other, while it calls forth our gratitude to Him” we should understand a close similarity to Solzhenitsyn’s “A return to God, voluntary self-restraint and self-restriction of humankind, emphasizing duties instead of ever-expanding “rights”, prioritizing inner freedom, and rejecting the sacrifice of national life not only to totalitarian utopia but also to the orgy of freedom.” What is that similarity, one might ask?
To begin with, the USA’s secular demand mandated in our founding charter was never about shunting God aside in our national life but was a practical recognition of the impossibility of reconciling the numerous competing beliefs in what amounted to a multicultural society with a deep antipathy to central authority; based in political persecutions that cannot be separated from a history of church-state relations in Europe. By the time of the USA’s founding, it was recognized if John Calvin, Martin Luther or the Pope’s adherents were to gain an upper hand in governance of these United States, the presumed result would be antithetical to the long term social maturity and stability of the newly founded nation.
Rather the expectation would be that the unique and new secularism of the United States should see sectarianism set aside towards pursuit of the greater good for the whole. It is in this demand we see an implicit but clear parallel to Solzhenitsyn’s “voluntary self-restraint and self-restriction of humankind” that never demanded God be set aside but sectarian self-centeredness set aside instead. This would require a self restraint that was an intended goal but proved an impossible demand; as ‘freedom’ became a practical ‘taking liberties’ or ‘god helps those who help themselves’ in a sense of gross opportunism. Let us not forget where this had evolved to in several short decades with “a sucker is born every minute” ostensibly attributed to circus magnate PT Barnum, but no matter falsely, this had become an indelible folk wisdom equating the by now established legal principle of Caveat Emptor or ‘let the buyer beware.’ Christian principles, that is if Christian principles are embodied in larger concepts or notions like ‘charity’, had been easily cast aside in these largely ‘Christian’ United States, and any principled stance of self restraint stepped on. It is the lower instinct, greed particularly, flourished.
Backing up a bit, it must be noted that the United States’ founding charter had been fatally flawed from inception; where the charter’s underlying ‘bedrock’ or Declaration of Independence stating “All men are created equal” had been discarded in reality when wealthy ‘special interests’ demanded this maxim did not pertain to negroes. Already the pirate culture of America’s eastern seaboard demonstrated a superior model were one to be honest; where Blacks had a vote electing a captain and share in the spoils of those ships taken by crews made up of White and Black escaped slaves. In our charter, White slavery was abolished but Black slavery was not.
This slavery was justified by ‘Christians’ employing biblical references per these examples: Noah’s “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren”, “By this decisive, explicit, irrefragable authority of the written work of God, it is evident that servants… are commanded under the Mosaic law to be bought; and that when so bought of alien sojourners, that they and their issue become inheritable property”, and “Like patriarchs of old, at the head of their children and grandchildren, their flocks and their herds, their bondmen and bond maids [are] to be an inheritance for their children after them to be their bond men forever” [pdf]
If one were to wonder where an individual’s ‘Christian’ conscience might play in the preceding, there needed be none; as Scots Presbyterians, English Baptists and Dutch ‘Reform’ Protestants had introduced what became a peculiar ‘Christian’ sociopathy that became widespread, that is John Calvin’s “predestination”
In our next installment, we will further explore the “schizophrenia” inlaid in the United States of America’s founding.
A former Special Forces Sergeant of Operations and Intelligence, Ronald Thomas West is a retired paralegal/investigator (living in exile) whose work focus has been anti-corruption and human rights. Ronald is published in International Law as a layman (The Mueller-Wilson Report, co-authored with Dr Mark D Cole) and has been adjunct professor of American Constitutional Law at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany. Ronald’s formal educational background is primarily social psychology. His therapeutic device is satire.