Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Philosophy and the Huck (aka, Mike Huckabee)

It's kind of painful to think of using the term "philosophy" in connection with Christian fundamentalism. George W. Bush unintentionally illustrated why in his famous response to a dorky question in a Republican Presidential debate on who his favorite philosopher is, "the Lord Jesus Christ." I'm not sure, but that may have made Shrub Bush the first person in history to consider Jesus a philosopher.

John Maynard Keynes once observed that businessmen often p[ride themselves on having derived all their ideas about economics from practical experience, when in reality they are the intellectual slaves of some long-dead economist. American Christian fundamentalists are not a very philosophically inclined bunch - not that any other significant group in the US is, either. But their religious thinking is actually influenced by a school of thought called Scottish Common Sense philosophy, of whom the most famous were George Campbell (1719-1796) and Thomas Reid (1710-1796). You can read a bit more about the general concept in this article by Alexander Broadie of the University of Glasgow.

Like Keynes' practical businessmen, today's Christianists are often running off some philosophy that looks much more like a brand of Social Darwinism than anything coming out of the Gospels. Even though they claim to what they call Darwinism, better know to most people as the science of biology.

Mike Huckabee's recent statement about Obama having been raised in Kenya sounds like a garbled version the claims of Dinesh D'Souza's frivolous book about Obama's alleged anti-colonial obsessions: Sarah Posner, Huckabee on Obama vs. "Average Americans" Religion Dispatches 03/02/2011. As Sarah Posner explains:

The reference to the Brits is by now a storyline that has reached fever pitch among conservatives: as part of the standard personalizing of the Oval Office by new presidents, Obama returned a bust of Winston Churchill -- which was on loan to former President Bush by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- and replaced it with a bust of his own choosing, of that notorious un-American figure... wait for it... Abraham Lincoln. [my emphasis]
The American President replaces the bust of a foreigner (Churchill) with one of the American all-but-universally regarded as the greatest President (Lincoln): and conservatives see this as sinister? The Huck's excuse for a clarifying statement included this: "The Governor would however like to know more about where President Obama's liberal policies come from and what else the President plans to do to this country -- as do most Americans."

Between free-market zealots, neoconservatives who believe in the Leo Straussian doctrine of governing by deception, and Christian fundis, more and more of what Republicans say sounds like one thing in American English and another in RepublicanSpeak. Blue Texan (Mike Huckabee a Victim of Epistemic Closure Firedoglake 03/02/2011) thinks the Huck has fallen victim to a philosophical disease. But it's one that is epidemic among his fellow Republicans: "this Obama/Mau Mau talk is perfectly mainstream in right-wing circles, and fruitloops everywhere else. Ditto death panels, the socialist conspiracy behind climate change, and the looming threat of Sharia law being imposed in the US."

Sarah Posner translates the Churchill business into American English for us:

But there's a lot more embedded in Huckabee's comment about Obama's "view of the Brits" and the supposed snub of returning the Churchill bust. First, in suggesting that Obama is anti-imperialist, Huckabee intimates that the president, in what conservatives frame as a civilizational war between the west and the rest, doesn't embrace the superiority of western civilization (which can also be read as Obama doesn't embrace "American exceptionalism.")

Second, and probably even more important, for an evangelical and Christian Zionist like Huckabee, Churchill is a figure of enormous symbolic power. In this scenario, Obama is an appeaser like Chamberlain -- whether it's on Iran's nuclear ambitions, or in failing to address the "Holocaust" of abortion -- Churchill is an Esther-like figure who finally intervened for the Jews (much as Christian Zionists see themselves as protecting Israel from Iran) in a Holocaust (much as ardent anti-choice crusaders see themselves protecting fetuses from what they attempt to portray as genocide). [my emphasis]
She goes on to frame this as "winking and nodding to his base." It looks to me more like an increasingly cult-like alternative political language among the Christian Republican White People's Party.

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