Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Political Theology, Neoconservatism and the Religious Right

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

To achieve a better understanding of how the neoconservative movement has been so successful, you have to go back to the start of it all, to make any sense of it all.

It is such a foreign concept, especially in Canada, that the media and pundits are often scrambling for an angle.

Stephen Harper is authoritative. Stephen Harper is secretive. Stephen Harper is a bully. Stephen Harper is dishonest.

But the essence of Stephen Harper can be summed up in a single word: Neoconservative. That political entity requires all of those things.

And the essence of neoconservatism can be summed up in two words: Political Theology. That was the theory of Carl Schmitt who had an intellectual relationship with Leo Strauss, the man deemed to be the father of the neoconservative movement.

Strauss had written to Schmitt, critiquing his Concept of the Political, and his suggestions were included in future publications of the book.

Just as the Concept of the Political has an exceptional position among the works of Carl Schmitt, so are the "Notes" of Leo Strauss exceptional among the texts about Schmitt ... The Concept of the Political is the only text that Schmitt issued in three different editions.' It is the only text in which the changes are not limited to polishing style, introducing minor shifts in emphasis, and making opportunistic corrections, but reveal conceptual interventions and important clarifications of content.' And it is the only text in which, by means of significant deletions, elaborations, and reformulations, Schmitt reacts to a critique.

Only in the case of the Concept of the Political does Schmitt engage in a dialogue, both open and hidden, with an interpreter, a dialogue that follows the path of a careful revision of Schmitt's own text. The partner in the dialogue is the author of the "Notes," Leo Strauss. He is the only one among Schmitt's critics whose interpretation Schmitt would include, decades later, in a publication under Schmitt's name,' and Strauss is the only one Schmitt would publicly call an "important philosopher."' (1)
This is quite compelling seeing as how Carl Schmitt was a Nazi and Leo Strauss a Jew. In fact Schmitt was responsible for removing Jewish content from university holdings, and yet he included "Jewish content" in the revisions to his book. He remarked to a friend after reading Strauss's notes: "He saw through me and X-rayed me as nobody else can."

And the notion of Political Theology is probably the best explanation of the resulting movement. It is more than mere ideology. It is a dogma. The infallible belief in what they are doing. They let nothing in, that contradicts their acceptance of corporatism.

In that way it was a natural marriage with the Religious Right. They were betrothed at birth.

Because who better to bring in to the fold, than a group already enormously successful at turning myths into truths. That's not an attack on any one's religion, but let's face it. The Religious Right does not represent mainstream beliefs. They have distorted religion for financial gain.

Most evangelicals do not share in the hatred and greed that has come to define them. They have embraced corporatism as the route to salvation, and as a result, are able to bestow greatness on a political leader. Another confliction with true evangelism.

A good example of this is the case of Bob Sirico, once a gay rights activist, and now a Catholic Priest. According to the Heartland Institute:
One often hears priests, preachers, and rabbis endorse an activist government able to solve social, economic, and perhaps even moral problems. Fr. Sirico offers a powerful challenge to this conventional wisdom. Religious principles, he says, require that men and women be free to practice virtue or vice, and freedom in turn requires a limited government and vibrant free-market economy. (2)
Have you ever heard anything so twisted? I attended Catholic school and not once do I remember the nuns catechizing a free-market economy.

So if we accept that neoconservatism is not so much a political philosophy as a political theology, everything else falls into line. We are dealing with a religion that has a fundamental set of beliefs and practices.

Their followers are referred to as Straussians.

But perhaps the biggest victim of neoconservatism, is Leo Strauss himself. He would never have promoted Imperialism and would no doubt have scoffed at the fanaticism now represented in the Republican Party, the Tea Party and the Reform-Alliance (Conservative Party of Canada).

As journalist Michael Lind once wrote in the Washington Weekly: "Whatever one thinks of Strauss as a philosopher, he cannot be blamed for the opportunism of his followers."


You Don't Have to Read Strauss to be a Straussian


1. Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue, Translated by J. Harvey Lomax, University of Chicago Press, 1995, ISBN: 978-0-226-51888-6, Pg. 6-8

2. "Religion and Freedom", by Joseph Bast, Heartland Institute. January 1, 2007

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