Don't act like y'all don't know where we be neither.

Subscribe in a reader

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Old South Religion

Since we've recently busted the bounds of polite conversation with a Sonic Boom might as well enjoy the ride...try and steer what is almost certainly a rudderless craft.

Actually I'm not offering you a sermon at all. I found something yesterday while doing my usual Friday reading at "work." Sometimes I'll bounce from one band to another on Wikepedia, other days I'll read the old out of copy-right Imperial memoirs on google books...and others I'll root around the Southern Partizan archives.

Yesterday's choice was made for me after Ronnie's comment about Puritanism. I mentioned to him Clyde Wilson's "The Yankee Problem in America"...having thought of it, I wanted to read it again and....

Y'all can find that essay here...

Keep in mind there is a heavy irony at work in this piece. For some, the title would make that obvious...for others probably not. He is writing about the Yankee the same way Southerners and The South are usally written about. So, if you're not a Southroner and you find yourself put off by the opening paragraph...that's kinda the point.

Suzanne Mary-Grant, a British historian, who along with Pete J. Parish edited the collection Legacy of Disunion, covers this very issue in her contribution to the book "The Charter of its Birth Right: The Civil War and American Nationalism". She quotes an editorial from a Northern paper that explained "There is one, and only one, sure policy for the immediate future...The North must become the absolute dictator of the Republic until the spirit of the North shall become the spirit of the whole country." There's also a letter from Henry Adams to his brother, expressing his conviction that it was up to him and "his generation" to bring the country "back to it's true course." That course being, of course, the one guided by the "New England element."

(one of the most Southern moments ever put to film...Hader's from borderline Oklahoma...McBride is straight outta Statesboro Georgia)

Anyway...the highlight yesterday was the The Real Old Time Religion by the late A. J. Conyers.

The essay looks at Puritanism, Fundamentalism, and Pantheism in US religious history and how The South has responded to these ideas.

It was a moment that not only reminded me of the reality of ideas but, also, of how much genuine pleasure they can bring. A moment where things you know to be true, ineffable things that you feel to be true, and things you hadn't pondered are brought together to explain a phenomenon in a way that immediately seems obvious. For instance, it gave me a better understanding of why we have found such a comfortable home in the Anglican Church, very comfortable, and not in the Baptist church where I was raised.

The section on nominalism and the tendencies of literal minded people gave me a real chuckle. This is something that comes up a lot around here because my in-laws, and some very good friends, are from the Mid-West where there is a tendency there toward literal mindedness.

I'm reminded of my Father-in-law, who is an outstanding man and one that I love, pulling me aside one day and letting me know that whenever I said I was "going out to check the weather" that he knew I was really going out to smoke. Busted. :)

I can imagine Jesus trying to tell someone to get the beam out of his own eye in Columbus Ohio...
"Now look here Jesus. In order for a board to be a beam it must A x B in width and C in length...the circumference of my head is only....hahahha.

(Not surprisingly these people are very good at inventing and building Father-in-Law is probably a world-class stone mason)

I was told point blank in Connecticut that Southerners are two faced...they never say what they really mean.

You don't have to be engaged with our disputes to enjoy it though. You certainly don't have to be a Christian or religious to get something out of it (though I do hope and look forward to hearing from some of our Christians on this one). There's plenty for anybody who's curious about religion in these United States or just a general interest in ideas and why they appeal. I think you can probably find yourself in one of these categories...and certainly some of our recent troubles :) can be put into a different perspective. And, I think, some of the difficulty that can be had in trying to communicate with one another what we actually mean.

Besides all that Mary Flannery O'Connor makes an appearance...


What more could you want?

Warning: If you follow these links and you get a call from the SPLC, the FBI, Scotland Yard, the UN or your local Commissar wanting know why you're visiting such reprehensible, hate filled sites just tell them you're monitoring an enemy of civilization in preparation for making a citizens arrest.


  1. I love Hot Rod, and thats one of the best clips in it, brilliant!

    We have a few museum curators are a bit literal minded like that, I think that sort of rigorous repetition and mind numbing lack of creativity attracts it. I have met a few who are great craftsman, but never any who are creative and artistic in what they do. I was once looking at some Viking swords in a curators office, and one basically was a pile of rust, and there was a skip over the roads with some old twisted metal in. So I jokingly said after I'd been there doing my thing for a half hour or so; 'hey, If I pop over the road to that skip and get a bit of that metal, we get stick this one on ebay and we'll go halfies'. It was a long afternoon...

    It was an interesting read, though clearly can't resist a little jibe here and there. 'Spell of nominalism'. I can't help but read that and imagine where you'd probably place me, or view me with regard to that. Which was an interesting experiment of itself. I don't think nessecarily correct, but I think I understand a bit more, I also realised I think I perpetually feel like I'm being judged by you, that ain't healthy, as I'm sure you ain't... hmm, maybe.

    1. You need to put that out of your mind.

      I am guilty of winding you up...but that is because you will often come back swinging and give up good stuff. Like the temperature thing...a flippant remark from me, and twenty minutes later I know more about how these scales came about than I had ever contemplated.

      I have never judged you and in fact am a little horrified to know that you think I might be...even though I understand what you are saying. I'm not in a position to judge anyone like that.

      I did think of our conversations during that bit and I think we are good examples of the kind. I think it articulates why our conversations sometimes end up going in circles. Using that as a general example...for me, having a better understanding of that doesn't make me think there is something wrong with makes me rethink my approach to communicating with you.

      It just goes against my nature to put the onus on someone else.

    2. I saw the problem in that section with our conversations; particularly St Adams letter to the Missippians part 4.

      I assume I am playing the part of the nominalist 'the fact is the truth', that is all there is, which I think is largely correct. However the counter that is 'the facts are suggestive of a deeper truth', your stance, I also agree with to an extent, but I think you don't comprehend my points on this, because the truth I think they show, is not the same one as you.

      I'm gonna really struggle to convey this next bit. The problem I have with the latter, is that I don't believe they are echoes of a conciousness, or originator, i.e a deliberate design, the Truth as you see it. I think this in itself shows us more about ourselves, our working, our behaviour. We want or need to see this to comprehend it, and we can't move forward without comprehension, and its showing us how we work as a creature. If one believe it is pointing to creative construction, then these point are utterly impossible to reconcile I think

      I do think that facts, reflect, or point to a larger pattern of how things are sustained. So when you say 'but thats just what it is, a description of its function', I think yes that is all it is on one hand, but in that it is also relaying the pattern of how all these things sustain themselves. Perpetual conflict, and contradiction. You can use any small issue and it works, I think that was why I ended up harping on about fractals and chaos theory once trying to think of an example. I know its not pointing to a grand Truth, an originator, which is the only truth that can count as the Truth if that is what you believe. But it is what I believe is the Truth.

      The guys section on puritans, where he states they wish to replace ambiguity with clarity, I couldn't agree more, and it is something I see more and more of in people the more I look.

      I was interested in his point on nominalist attitude being more prone to fundamentalism, I think this had a lot to do with a point you were making about Hitler once. I can think of many aetheists (and socialists! :-P) as well who fall into some form of category of fundamentalists or puritans, which I think would provoke an interesting response if I told them.

      He did show a lot of personal bias in this section, maskerading as objective observation. The tone implies what he thinks is correct, in that thing alone he is shyer of ambiguity than he believes himself to be. I am also a little uncorfortable with it not being possible to arrive at being a fundamentalist or puritan, out of genuine empathy or intellectual reasoning, though I think the actual nature of human beings means he is right, and this is exactly what happens (and in this I see the pattern or reflection of our desire to simplify and distill things to comprehension and action we can affect).

      Above all he is assuming his belief in facts are correct, and everything from those first few pages discussing this onward, whilst applicable, is judgement based. By saying 'The symbols of reality have become reality for the fundamentalist' he dodges the real debate that they may actually BE reality, this is not known It could be equally true to say, for this individual the reality of existance has become symbolic, he may be turning reality into symbols, but its sort of ignored. He has no knowledge that they are not, beyond his belief and reasoning. This is a judgement on his behalf, not an objective observation. Its intersting, as that is what enabled me to see why, even though we have both made our thoughts known in the past, there was still a lack of comprehension, which I think is largely unresolvable. I thought reading that, that I saw a glimpse of how you percieve what I am saying, which helped me understand at least exactly what the impass is, and I think it may be insurmountable.

    3. This is confirmation of something I've long suspected but couldn't be sure of...I am not always trying to push in the direction of God. I think the assumption of my motives can sometimes be an issue too.

      Take our conversation of The Stranger...Camu has presented a question. He's not a Christian but, he's pondering a certain issue. All I was after in our conversation was your thoughts on that issue...not trying to turn your mind. I get the feeling sometimes that my questions are treated with if I'm up to something and usually I am not.

      People's minds are there own.

      Some of what the author is saying is true from a historical In facts became reality. Maybe they are maybe they aren't. If you can answer that question you should be in Philosophy. What he is saying is that for a group of people, at a certain point...Facts became Reality.

      Of course, he isn't coy about where he's coming from what he believes but, the thing isn't really an argument at all. It's an explanation of ideas, how they've worked in the Church, and how The South has reacted to them. For instance, I'm sure there are Fundamentalist Christians that would argue with him about Fundamentalism and it's place in the South.

    4. I tend to skip to the end in a lot of conversations, it drives Emma mad. I take too much as read, when it isn't, skip so fast through it, that what ends up on the screen/page is just distilled drivel, regarding the punch line.

      You are right of course you are not only pushing in the direction of god, but I guess I chase ahead to the point where that is the only choice or conclusion, which surely it is right? I mean thats where the train stops with pretty much anything you can imagine?

      As for motive, I didn't think you were trying to convert me, but I never really understood what you were after, I guess I was a little suspicious as what was probably curiosity on your part, felt like probing at the soft bits to me, sort of waiting to be tripped up, and in mortal terror of having to explain more, I suppose just because I'm not very good at it even when I do understand what I need to say.

      Will email you back tommorow dude, it has been one of those years so far, and time is not my own any more.

    5. You seem pretty good at explaining yourself to me...which is one of the reasons I like to get into these conversations with you from time to time.

      One of the things that interests me the most is moral authority. So, knowing what you believe...based on what you've told me...curiosity gets the best of me. I want to know why I can't take my neighbors flower know how hot I am for those.


      I'm always curious what people mean when they say something is they determine what's good, etc.

    6. I thought it was garden furniture last time? I clearly didn't do that great a job of explaining of you are asking me again, or did you decide to leave their furniture after that conversation, and wondered if it was applicable to the plant pots too? :-P

      I believe as a social animal there are consequences to our anti-social actions. Theft in many forms is one of these. Disregard the flower pots, or furniture, the net result is you are consciously sanctioning an action that is detrimental to another being, and this could have social consequences if doscovered, and to a social animal this is a negative thing and we try to avoid it.

      How dire those consequences are, and the relationship with the individual or group you are interacting with, and lastly your own personal level of behavioural response, will dictate how 'guilty' you feel, or how 'bad' we grade this behavior (and ultimately influences our choice).

      Now what about stealing from someone you hate? Why is that still bad right? Even actions against those we dislike still goes against this code. Whilst we have developed to be able to discuss and reason these things, the raw behaviur hasn't, and in addition negative behaviour is still suggestive of our disposal to this kind of behaviour. So whilst it may seem obvious that if we both hate someone, then stealing from them or hurting them is fine, it is not. Its hardcoded that its anti-social behaviour (though as stated above you will get differing mileage from different individuals), and to boot it could sow distrust in those we do like. I found out a friend of mine had stole some artefacts from a site once, inconsequential things that would end up in a box in storage, on a meaningless site, for a bad company, but It still shook me a little, and he knew it when he'd told me.

      There will be a point where, collectively these things get justified, or socially accepted, or our frequent experience of them will numb us to them, but I think regardless there is always a clear way to choose, and absolute morality, if you will, returning to that source, that even thousands of years of development, language, reasoning, and conditioning still can't erase.

      So thats why you'll just have to save up for those flower pots yourself. There are social consequences to the way you behave, and your subconcious knows this and sends all those emotions and chemicals pumping through you to direct you this way. You are hard coded to behave socially, despite the often contradicting self centred inpluses, but ulitmately this serves us well, in ensuring we are protected, grow up healthy, find partners, have off spring etc, it keeps us in a favourable position within this loop, those who 'don't' 'obey' this impulse (please take this very metaphorically, based on some of the above)... well, I don't envy them put it that way.

      I better get to work man! sheesh, or that will have some serious social and personal implications!

    7. What we have is a collection of tendancies that have survived the evolutionary process. These tendencies all incline towards socialization because those are the tendancies that best survived the process.

      People are happy, sad, good, bad according to how much of these socialization tendencies they passes.

      A thief is not any more "immoral" than somebody who doesn't like to socialize. He's certainly not as "immoral" as some who never marries and has children.

      There's your conscience but, the desire for the flower pots is already eating away at that. Besides I know now that my conscience is nothing but highly evolved herd mentality. The main thing is don't get caught.

    8. Yeah, something like that. I'd perhaps say that the balance of these tendancies incline towards socialisation, i.e variation, culture, and social conditioning will determine how wide that circle spreads as its counteracted by plenty of tendancies that still self serve. Im hoping to borrow some books on forgiveness to persue this idea more, as it is an unusual phenomenon where these forces collide. Social and Cultural dynamics apply on top of this to make a right old mess, see Capitalism, Comunism, Nazi Germany, Mayan Culture, et al.

      I'd say a thief certainly was more immoral. I mean, someone who doesn't contribute adds nothing, so whilst its not great, it isn't negative, a thief is taking away from someone. Thats how we arrive at these judgements as to where in the grey sludge of right and wrong an action sits.

    9. How is a thief immoral? All he's done is break some consensus that was reached through chance.

      In fact, under this system...the moral choice might just be to give me the flower pots. I'm a family man, a contributor...if you prosecute me for theft it could be more disruptive to the consensus than the loss of one man's flower pots.

      People might question the the whole consensus if a man like me was sent up.

    10. Hmm, I just re-read it, the first paragraph is fine, but the second two I misread. Whether they are happy/sad and good/bad are two different things, one based off purely their own experience related to what balance of tendancies they have, and bad/good depending the kinds of tendancies and their responses to them, presumaby why some people find moral behaviour harder than others. Though it is unapplicable, as its nonsence, a tiger would notionally have a different morality to human beings, happiness would therefore be presumaly be easier for them :-P

    11. Well if all morality is an evolutionary consensus specific to human beings, which is along the lines of what I have argued, then as the thief has broken this; thats how its immoral, because morality is these rules. Does that question not assume the thief is breaking some rule set, but that morality is some third party objective judgement?

      At the end of the day, the individuals priority is themselves, and/or family, the social consensus is a means to achieve this with stability ( I have talked about these conflictions between these before on the individual, family, and larger social level). If actions within this social circle are seen to denigrate the individual then its working against the point of it in the first place. Sure its a carefully balance, for example if I saw you were in Dire need of Flower pots, and I had plenty, and we were friends, sure, I'd chuck you a few flower pots, but you have no right to demand.... are you trying to make me argue why you don't need to pay your taxes now?

    12. ^^ Sorry Ipad and auto correct, fecking technology!

    13. Chance has produced a consensus that survival of the species is a "good" thing...and that this particular way of survining is a "good" thing...again, a consensus reached by chance.

      Man that must be a hard sell up at Parchman and over at Angola.

    14. You are dealing with Mac auto-fill and still you argue that there is no cosmic basis for judgement?

      That's just stubborn.

    15. Not sure i understand the initial bit, survival, or natural selection just is. There is no morality attached to it, it happens because it works, or it fails because it doesn't. Morality is the mechanism for enforcing our chance survival technique.

      I don't there is a belief system in the world that isn't a tough sell somewhere. Try telling an African baby born with AIDS that this situation arose thanks to a deitys design.

      You may be right on the Mac thing. Maybe Nietzche saying god is dead, was a prediction, not a statement about Steve Jobs in 2011

    16. I was basically saying the same just is.

      Now I actually see God in that my moral outrage to it. I don't think it just is. I think it is wrong...comiscally...and my reaction is justified not reactionary but, that is a different direction for the conversation...the God direction. Dun Duuuuuuuuuuuuun!

      The baby is not given aids by society but the prisoner is locked up for not conforming. We are taking that action justified beyond referring to accidental consensus?

  2. Just as an aside, here are this evening comments from two mates on facebook, both northerners one male, one female:

    *** is sick to the back teeth of absolute utter fucking bellends. do this, do that, dont say this, dont drink that, eat this, buy this, dont buy that, i am right, you are wrong, he says this, he says that. FFFFuuucckkkk offffff!!!!!!!!!!!!! utter bellendsssssss!!!!!!

    **** is not a redneck, i'm just old fashioned.

    Its not quite as elegant as the hosepipe, but I think there is some shared suffering. :-)

    1. Yeah...:) I don't think we're the only ones that don't like being told what to do.

      What the clip illustrates so hilariously is a kind of conversations that's continually gone on between two groups of people what side says and what the other hears.

  3. Interesting post and it has taken me a few hours to work out what to say to you. I think it comes down to this.

    Under no circumstances should you ever not put a question or point of view forward. If you fail to do so are you afraid of the answer or reaction ? I have learnt so much about myself by seeing how others react to the way I see the world, I have learnt so much about others and at times it has restored my faith in humanity as a whole.

    This does not mean that history will see my questions as palatable or even handed, in fact I expect that they may not. But I am more interested in the reactions and interactions that putting ideas forward brings. Old or new reactions, quite simply they are what they are creative or otherwise.

    We can learn from the ideas and actions of others, this is essential to us as human beings both spiritual and secular in nature. This in itself can be a conflict. One I think we all struggle with.

  4. the second paragraph first line should read.

    Under no circumstances should you never put a question or point of view forward.

    Big typo Sorry

  5. Well of all the many faults this blog may have...I don't think an unwillingness on the part of the author, or it's readers, to express themselves can be counted among them.
    As for the judgment of history..So long as you stand your ground, stand still, eventually history will go through a phase where you are correct.

  6. I was more trying to point out that you have done that, and the importance of continuing to do so. Its a good read, but you got me thinking on this one that's for sure. Probably doesn't help that I know so little of the references you used. Sometimes I don't see what you see simply because im not from the USA :)

  7. I figured we were on the right track.

    I think there's something for the general audience but, you're right....there's a lot of inside issues there.

    1. There always will be inside issues around certain topics and certain points in history. I find for example if I talk about my illness in any depth I often get negative comments or interactions with others. They are unable to process or refuse to process the information being provided. Does that make them wrong. Hell no but it does make an interesting start point for further information sharing.

      Part of the reason I like your blog.

  8. This is what makes your blog the best e.f. - an openness to ideas, genuine curiosity. Interesting contributors.
    You say your questions and conversations (with Adam) might trigger suspicion that you are "up to something".
    I often feel that folks misunderstand me in that way - whereas the truth is I argue out of devilment or a desire to kick up the dust or the sheer love of ideas or just because the heat of the discussion is exciting to me.
    Not out of totalitarian leanings or fundamentalist judgement of others. lean too far in any direction (left or right or) - and that way madness lies. My old Granpa (the Communist) never spoke an angry word in his life. He was married to a thrice-on-a-sunday-going Christian. His byword was "tolerance" - closely followed by "we are all Jock Tamsons bairns". He was a man I truly respected.
    What I do struggle with however is that natural pragmatism - and relativism - leads, now and again, to a feeling that actually there is nowt I can say or commit to with great certainty.
    like Adam I assume I will play the part of the nominalist. In any case I am off to read your links.

    1. I think that missunderstanding by others makes the need to clarify and define the issue as you see it more intense. I know inherantly that you will never convert or even slightly convince some. But I find the idea of clarification cleansing and at the same time self exploration of the same ideas/ideals.

      Think that should be my last heavy reply everyone will start to think im smart ;) or a smart arse ;)

    2. I don't necessarily want to turn this place into a colloquium but...we have a lot of different views here. As long as everybody minds their manners we should be able to discuss things from time to to time.

  9. Sorry I kinda pooped out on y'all yesterday (and probably today). Muj, Horse, adamparsons....everybody deserves a response but, I got up at 4:30 Monday and yesterday I was out working before y'all had eaten dinner (horse I don't know what time it was for you). My brain shut off around 2:00 yesterdee...and then I had to go eat pancakes (Muj and adamparsons didn't get pancakes because they don't like God).

    Shortly I'll be headed to Grenada (that's Gre-nay-duh in these parts) where there is someone who drives an old Toyota covered in Nazi (and sadly Confederate...flipping moron) bumper stickers with one exception. In the middle of the back window, right next to the homemade "heel" hitler sticker is one that says..."Bring Out Your Inner Elvis at Graceland." hahahaha...WTF?

    Mostly I'll be smelln' smoke and eaten BBQ.

  10. You two...and you know who you are...could have added a great deal to this discussion but, you chose not to.

    You'll pay.

    Then there's the rest of anxious to argue trival matters but, when it comes to something that leave Adam out there all by hisself.

    Y'all will pay too.

    E'erybody's gonna pay...I'm just in that kinda mood.

    I think I'm gonna finally write that Johnathan Lasker post I've been threatening to bore everybody with for years.

    1. *grabs popcorn*

      This will have to do for now 'til they get them emoticons sorted