a thoughtful web.
Good ideas and conversation. No ads, no tracking.   Login or Take a Tour!
comment
mzykels  ·  863 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: NC pastor yells ‘white power’ from truck during weekend Trump parade, videos show

Christianity (and maybe religion more broadly) is funny that way - it can be used to justify any point you can dream up, which makes it an indispensable tool for managing the ethos of a population. I certainly wouldn't call christianity specifically individualist any more than I would call it collectivist, though the collectivist argument is admittedly less complicated to make. If we use the bible as our only text here, then it's pretty easy to find support for altruism and some degree of collectivism as mandatory for entry into heaven, if that's really the name of the game.

The first example that comes to mind, the Good Samaritan parable, is pretty familiar even to people who aren't necessarily digging deep into the literature. Also, it's conveniently relevant to the racism on display in the original post:

    Luke 10:25–37

    ...‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Obviously the Samaritans were shunned at the time, and aside from the takeaway that helping others is a positive boost to your heaven points, the jelly to that peanut butter is that your prejudices might be wrong and lead you into sin.

There's also that other well-known parable, The Sheep and the Goats - where we find some of Christ's greatest hits, with gems like "You passed the trick! I wasn't pulling my weight, so it's fine that you didn't step in to lend a hand" and "Gee, thanks for not pitching in there, lest people become lazy and cost someone their righteously deserved clams":

    Matthew 25:31–46

    “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

And the Epistle of James is definitely not charitable about the stingy wealthy either - And this admonishment isn't specific to individual behavior, but to the way some portions of the wealthier class treat laborers:

    James 5:1–6

    Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up for treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

Clearly, wealth is not always necessarily evidence of god's grace (despite what Weber and the calvinists may have believed about predestination).

Even the notoriously violent and cruel old testament has passages encouraging altruism and caring for have-nots on an individual and societal level...

    Deuteronomy 24:19–22

    When you reap in your harvest in the field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it... When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again... When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.

    Psalms 82

    God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods.” “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.” Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

Psalm 82 is about God rebuking the kings and unjust human judges (you could say "policy makers") of Israel for not treating the poor with respect....

....and so on....

To clarify, I'm not saying christianity is inherently altruistic or actually supports a collectivist lifestyle - just that it's central text is extremely inconsistent, which means it can serve almost any end. I hate to state the obvious, but I feel it might be necessary in this case. Also, keep in mind, I'm not being picky about the translations I'm using for the verses. Biblical cherry picking and inconsistencies have been beaten to death, and I didn't think this point was worth dusting off my Strong's Concordance....

And honestly, I forgot all about Weber - and you're right... I wonder to what extent he is the core thinker ultimately responsible for the bulk of christian nationalist ideas. Thanks for reminding me that the intermingling of laissez-faire capitalism and christianity goes back a bit farther than the 1920s.

Yes, Weber may have been a foundational figure in sociology, but he certainly was not a particularly discerning researcher by any modern standards. His writing style reflects his carelessness with lots of vague "everyone knows that..." and "it is often said that..." And all he has to support his ideas is anecdotal evidence, with all the realism and credibility of the biblical parables above.

The assertion that increasing wages leads to laziness is contradicted by research using more current methodologies. Akerlof established the efficiency wage hypothesis back in the 1980s, and it has been repeatedly supported by research since, with studies even demonstrating that workers will work harder with wage increases. Higher wages also attract better trained and more effective workers, and it encourages stronger committment(see p375 for the intro, and p512 for effects on commitment) from them at the micro level, which allows companies to build on their human capital (and ultimately their productivity) with further training. This increased efficiency extends to the macro level as well - The effect of reasonable wages on quality of work is so strong that it can cause exploitative firms to fail (possibly as a result of high worker attrition, low motivation, and lack of training) and eventually be replaced by more productive firms that offer better financial and professional opportunities for their employees. That's not to say the minimum wage for everyone needs to be 1000 dollars an hour, just that it's actually counterproductive to punish workers with poverty if you're trying to maximize their productivity while maintaining a stable economy.

Speaking of wages, when Weber compares earnings between protestant and catholic workers in Germany, selection bias severely undermines his claims, since at the time, the majority of catholics in Germany were Polish, and Germany was pretty expressly anti-Polish. So he was actually observing something closer to the effect of social discrimination on wages of a given population... while mistranslating that observation into a claim about their productivity and moral constitution. This unsupported claim that a particular immigrant minority is probably just lazy sounds extremely familiar to American ears.

Also, I have to point out that discussing this problem in economic terms is a pretty common tactic for making the subject seem abstract and more palatable than it is.

I suppose even if it isn't really possible to defend christian nationalism , you did succeed in explaining its roots admirably.

Edit: I want to add that I am not claiming that Christian Nationalism (which isn't even really a religion) represents all of christianity in the US or anywhere else....