Skip to comments.Mark Steyn; In praise of ‘Jesusland’
Posted on 12/16/2004 6:28:43 AM PST by Pokey78
As in previous years, Planned Parenthood has been selling greetings cards for abortion proponents filled with seasonal cheer to send to each other: Choice On Earth, they proclaim. I can just about understand being a proponent of abortion; I find it harder to fathom someone whose obsession with the subject extends to sending out holiday cards on the theme. Especially as, insofar as the Christmas story is relevant to this question, its a season to reflect on the potential of every new life.
Two thousand years ago, if a betrothed woman such as Mary became pregnant by a man other than her intended, she was guilty of adultery and liable to stoning. But Joseph, St Matthew tells us, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily i.e., a quiet divorce. Given the prevailing social climate back then, had they had Choice On Earth abortion on demand Jesus would have been first in line for it. There would have been no Christ, no Christmas, no New Testament, no lines about peace on earth for abortion fetishists to riff off for their holiday slogan.
Scripturally derivative even in its repudiation thereof, Choice On Earth seems an apt summation of the muddled state of Christendom at the dawn of its third millennium. These days we dont say Christendom, of course, except in an ironic way. We say the Muslim world all the time, without thinking The Iraq invasion enraged the entire Muslim world, declares the Democrats website. The notion of a Muslim world is acceptable to the progressive mind. The Christian world is a more problematic concept.
But its still out there, just about, and 2004 was a good year for Jesus. He had the big box-office smash of the past 12 months with The Passion of The Christ, scorned by Hollywood but popularised by word of mouth, or word of tongues. And, a couple of days after His man won the US election, a couple of Democrat wags, in a widely disseminated Internet cartoon, renamed a big swath of the North American continent after Him Jesusland, stretching across the vast southern interior and pushing up along the Rockies to the 49th parallel. The godless coastal fringes, meanwhile, were joined with Her Majestys Northern Dominion and rechristened (if youll pardon the expression) the United States of Canada, a fate I wouldnt wish even on Democrats. And, while the thought of joining their own shrivelled redoubts in a grand union with the biggest blue state of all evidently cheers them up, they may be overestimating the blueness of the Great White North: large chunks of Alberta and the British Columbia hinterland would be happy to sign up with the Bible-thumpers, if only for the non-confiscatory tax rates. So Jesusland could well be even larger than its disparagers suggest.
Jesusland isnt exactly Christendom: the latter evokes Rome, bishops, cathedrals, bells, incense, oratorios; the former is evangelicals, pastors, church suppers, WWJD buttons (What Would Jesus Do?), Christian rock. Some Democrats in the beleaguered fleshpots advocate accommodation with the God-fearing rednecks: for a week or so after the election, Nancy Pelosi, the Dems leader in the House of Representatives, was quoting Scripture in every soundbite, albeit the wimpy social-workerish bits. But most of her party has no desire to go down the straight-and-narrow, even as a rhetorical feint: the other day I found myself motoring along behind some Vermont feminist whose faded Im Pro-Choice and I Vote bumper sticker was now accompanied by another one demanding grumpily, Instead Of Being Born Again, Why Not Grow Up?
The Jesusland meme is so discombobulating to the secular elites of the western world that within a week it had become the prism through which they view every event in the great republic even lousy movies. For as the Independents headline put it, Alexander the (Not So) Great Fails To Conquer Americas Homophobes. I dont think you have to be a homophobe to find Alexander a stinker; its stinker status does not primarily derive from its mild gayness, so much as from Oliver Stones incoherent storytelling and a dull central performance by some Irish bloke whose efforts at characterisation start and end with bellowing every line. But, if the worlds media want to conjure visions of stump-toothed backwoods knuckle-draggers stomping out of the Jesusland multiplex firing off verses from Leviticus as they demand a full refund, why get in the way of their illusions? The Guardians Timothy Garton Ash, just back from a tour of Americas blue states, says that theyre crying out for Europes help: Hands need to be joined across the sea in an old cause: the defence of the Enlightenment, he writes, and adopts as his rallying cry a subtle modification of Le Mondes famous 12 September headline, We are all blue Americans now. Europeans need to ally with blue staters and Canadians and so forth and draw a cordon bleu, as John Kerry would say, around George W. Bushs Jesusland, throttling it in its manger.
Well, good luck with that. I doubt whether a Euro-blue-state alliance is in any position to defend the Enlightenment. Even if one accepts that the modern Euro-Canadian secular state is the rightful heir to the Enlightenment, it would seem obvious that its got a lot less enlightened, at least in the sense of freeing from superstition. The ludicrous over-reaction by the elites to the US election results is at least as superstitious and irrational as anything the Bible Belt believes. And theres nothing very rational or scientific about refusing to engage with your opponents arguments and instead dismissing them as mere phobias homophobia, Islamophobia, Chiracophobia.... Whatever else may be said about the evangelicals, they dont sneer theophobia whenever theyre criticised, even though in that case the lame trope may be almost plausible when it comes to abnormal psychological fear of the unknown, blue staters theophobia is more pervasive than red staters homophobia.
A year or two back, I attended a lunch for a minister from California who was applying for a pastors gig at a New Hampshire Congregational church. My friend, the aptly named Faith, cut to the chase and asked the minister whether she believed the Bible was the literal truth. Well, she said, somewhat condescendingly, I believe these are useful narratives that we tell each other. Even if thats so, is it helpful to give the game away? As it turned out, the minister was a lesbian whod been joined in what she called Holy Union with her partner back at their church in Berkeley, since when shed become an enthusiastic marrier of gay couples across the Bay area. Proclaiming the Bible a series of useful narratives is invariably a first step towards proclaiming many of them useless the relevant portions of Romans, etc.
But if the Bible is merely a useful narrative, its an immaculately conceived one, beginning with the decision to root the divinity of Christ in the miracle of His birth. The promise of new life on earth prefigures the promise of new life in heaven. Once you cease believing in the latter, the former soon follows. Steve Sailer pointed out in the American Conservative the other week that George W. Bush won 25 of the 26 states with the highest fertility rate. On the other hand, John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest. If I were a Democrat looking 20 years down the road, Id be very alarmed by this trend.
But then not many Democrats do look 20 years down the road: radical secular individualism is a present-tense culture, in America as in Europe. In the long run we are all dead, as Keynes said. There speaks a childless homosexual. Those Old Testament big begetters knew better: a celestial afterlife is something we have to take on faith, but our afterlife on earth is the children we beget and the children they in turn beget. How many divisions has the Pope? scoffed Stalin. Demographically speaking, Jesusland has more divisions than Eutopia. Pace Timothy Garton Ash, you cant defend the Enlightenment if youre too enlightened to breed. Americans remain mystified about one of the landmark events of this year: the terrorist bloodbath in Madrid that changed the result of the countrys election. Why, they wonder on this side of the Atlantic, wouldnt the Spaniards stand firm? But whats to stand firm for? To fight for king and country is to fight for the future, and a nation with Spains fertility rate 1.1 children per couple or about half replacement rate has no future
In that sense, the Bible, beginning with Gods injunction to go forth and multiply, is a lot more rational than the allegedly rational types at Planned Parenthood. Im not an absolutist in these matters. Im a red stater when it comes to God and guns, but I like European art-house movies where Juliette Binoche or Isabelle Huppert take their kit off. Its a question of balance. And comparing Jesusland with present-tense Eutopia, it seems obvious which is more out of whack. What Timothy Garton Ash calls the Enlightenment has degenerated under its present trustees into a doomsday cult with all the coerciveness of the old state religion and none of the eternal truths.
For example, for as long as I can remember, the pre-eminent eco-doom-monger on Canadian TV has been a chap called David Suzuki, who, in a poignant comment on the state of my country, recently made the Top Ten Greatest Canadians Of All Time list. A while back, Suzuki wrote a column called We Are All Animals Here, beginning as follows:
The sign in the shopping mall said, No animals allowed. As I read it, I didnt know whether to laugh or cry. It reflected a failure to admit or unwillingness to acknowledge our biological nature. We are animals and have a taxonomic classification: Kingdom: Animalia; Phylum: Chordata; Class: Mammalia; Order: Primates; Family: Hominidae; Genus: Homo; Species: sapiens.
Our reluctance to acknowledge our animal nature is indicated in our attitude to other animals. If we call someone a worm, snake, pig, chicken, mule or ape, it is an insult. Indeed, to accuse someone of being a wild animal at a party is a terrible insult.
But apparently not at his pad; Suzuki, even at a sober wine-and-cheese do, is literally a party animal. This kind of standard ecoblather certainly has animal qualities if only in the sense that its barking. Everyone knows what the sign in the mall means. It may be distressing to Suzuki, but the world we live in is defined not by what we have in common with worms, snakes and pigs, but by what separates us. For the purposes of comparison, consider the Eighth Psalm:
What is man, that thou art mindful of him...? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou hast made him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea.
Now you can say thats a lot of Judaeo-Christian hooey. But the Psalmist, regardless of whether he got it from God or winged it off the top of his head, has characterised the reality of our existence better than the environmentalists and scientists. The Eighth Psalm describes the central fact of our world our dominion over the sheep and oxen, yea, and all the party animals. It was a lot less plausible when it was written, when mans domain stretched barely to the horizon, when ravenous beasts lurked in the undergrowth, when the oceans were uncharted and the maps dribbled away with the words Here be dragons.... But, over the millennia, the Eighth Psalm has held up, which is more than you can say for the average 1970s bestseller predicting the oil would run out by 1998 and the Maldives would be obliterated by global warming.
Its easy, in an otherwise wholly secular West, to mock the religiosity of Jesusland. But if eternal salvation remains unproved, the suspension of disbelief required of Eutopian secularists grows daily. If you were one of those redneck Christian fundamentalists the worlds media are always warning about, you might think the Continents in for what looks awfully like the Four Horsemen of the Euro-Apocalypse: Famine the end of the lavishly funded statist good times; Death the self-extinction of European races too selfish to breed; War the decline into bloody civil unrest that these economic and demographic factors will bring; and Conquest the recolonisation of Europe by Islam.
But it goes without saying that Europeans are far too rational and enlightened to believe in such outmoded notions as apocalyptic equestrians. If there is choice on earth, Ill bet on Jesusland. Happy holidays.
There is something...obscene...about those cards.
A Mark Steyn Bump-to-the-Top!!!!
I bet a lot of abortion supporters would say "Yes". Sad, but I think a lot of it is self hate.
However, the Jews under Roman occupation weren't stoning anyone, as the Romans forbade them to capitally punish anyone on their own. Capital offenses had to go through the Roman courts, and it's doubtful that the Romans would have recognized Jewish adultery as a crime. (There were two kinds of marriages in imperial Rome - those sealed by the Roman courts, and common law marriages, i.e. everything else. Jews didn't go before the Roman courts to marry.)
Had Joseph exercised his rights under Jewish custom, Mary would have indeed had a terrible life - banished from her family and community; probably forced into a life of prostitution or worse. But not put to death by stoning.
Can we have them as states? Can we? Can we? Especially the parts with the sand tar oil pits? We could also use four more Republican senators and 4-6 more Republican Congressmen.
There is a highway running south.
Thanks for the ping!
Let us hope you hear them as well as here them. Creationists are an embarrassment to conservatism precisely because they are evidence that the knuckle-draggin' gap-toothed slope-browed mean and dumb stereotypes are true. Worse, creationism seeks to hijack conservatism into an absolutely unwinnable war against the universe, its workings and history, and all the vast evidence related thereto. Sane conservatives must not allow this to happen.
I never cringe more than when Steyn rails at evolutionist and militant atheist Dawkins. I'm embarrassed for both of them. Steyn tends to be right on the money in matters of culture and politics but apparently, from a few things he's said, has been misled on science. Dawkins is his perfect inverse, a fine grasp of science but out of his depth in a mud puddle at much of anything else. Each should stick to his area of competence, but free speech means freedom to be not only wrong but loudly wrong.
Yet there are instances in the Gospels where they indeed take up stones to kill. I recall one instance, against Jesus Himself, and another against the woman caught in adultery. You're right that it was not officially sanctioned, but I doubt whether the Romans really cared very much if a Jewish person happened to be unoffically offed in such a way.
One day, maybe I'll be heading down on it to escape this lunacy.
The incomparible Steyn. So many quotable lines, so little time!
I beg your pardon(?)
This is almost a review of western civilization at the beginning of the 21st century.
It is insightful, brilliant, helpful. It might be Steyn's best ever, and he's had some really good ones in the past.
What a wordsmith!
Thanks for the ping Pokey.
There is no argument for creationism (excluding theistic evolution) which does not reflect badly upon the person making it by implying ignorance, stupidity, dishonesty, insanity, or some combination of the preceding. Then there's the way the same militant posters show up trolling for suckers with those same bad pennies upon thread after thread, feigning amnesia and forcing people to drag them kicking and screaming through the refutations to their arguments again and again and again and again and again.
Within the delusional system of the creationist, all this is OK. It's a Holy War. One is allowed to act badly in a war. It's very liberating, saving the world from the evil dumb people. The delusional system itself is bullet-proof. All the evidence against it is enemy action of some sort. There's no reason ever not to soldier on.
From outside, though, for those who have not drunk the Kook-Aid, it looks bad. The country will never go along with this. The Holy Warriors attempting one school board takeover after another around the country threaten to become the shackle that grinds conservatism to a halt by forcing everyone who doesn't think Duane Gish is a scientist to relabel himself as a "progressive."
Steyn is by far my favorite columnist...cant wait until he picks back up his spt on the Hugh Hewitt show..
Excellent essay, but I have one quibble: in the 70's environmentalists were warning about global cooling, not global warning.
Oh, I adore this man! What richness of thought and imagery! And thank you so much for the ping, Pokey! Not only is Steyn a political genius, he is pretty darned clear-eyed on the issue of faith in this country.