Wednesday, November 02, 2005

More on Christian Freedom

This pondering about Knox has led me to a bit of speculation as to whether the phenomenon isn't something internal to the so-called "Anglo-Celts," whom those familiar with the neo-Confederate movement will likely recognize. This is the ethnic group opposed to British Puritanism, the ornery bunch of rabble-rousers whose hillbilly ways are the a primary influence on Southern culture. The issue is close to my heart, being a Southerner with Scots-Irish heritage as well as Celtic roots even on the French side (my surname comes from a British immigrant to France and later Canada, Jean Prejean dit le Breton, and black hair with blue eyes runs in the family). Antipathy to English Puritanism is almost reflexive for me, which is probably why I hated Massachusetts so much. But at the same time, the dumb anti-Catholicism, racism, and populism in the South is something that I find equally repugnant, which has always left me "betwixt and between" about Southern heritage.

That leads me to wonder if this conflict between the classical Roman, Stoic, and (later) Christian concept of civic virtue and honor hasn't always been in conflict the Pictish pagan mindset on freedom. I get the distinct impression that these two things were stuck together uncomfortably, as if the Scottish culture was "incompletely converted" on account of its resistance to the underlying (Roman) cultural framework that provided the real metaphysical framework for the Christian religion. In essence, the Scottish resistance to the Roman Empire has left its mark in the Scottish resistance to authority more generally in this Manichaean concept of freedom as inherently good and authority as inherently bad, which leaves it at loggerheads with the Augustinian (Christian Stoic) concept of civic virtue. The connection between Confederate society and Scottish culture is well-documented, so it's certainly not wild speculation to think that the two were present. And the conflict here between the themes of freedom in an individualistic sense and in a more collective (and in my view, Christian) sense has definitely played out several times in American history, perhaps most graphically in the rift between Andrew Jackson and John Calhoun (both Scots-Irish themselves) over the nullification controversy.

We know that Knox was far more radically anti-authoritarian than Calvin was. We know that the connection between hostility to Roman authority both in the political and religious sense was about as powerfully charged in Scotland as it has been anywhere. Is this what created the opposition to the classical concept of civic virtue that led to anarchic ideas of freedom? Is this why the Scottish Enlightenment has led to such vicious amorality in the contect of laissez-faire captialism and liberalism?

Could it really just be a case of pagans once again refusing to be fully Christianized? Given the way that the Yankees were able to exploit anti-Catholicism to obtain power with the "Rum, Romanism, Rebellion" slogan, one truly must wonder if this mindless pagan anti-authoritarianism hasn't proved to be the most destructive force in American politics....