Americanism is the set of beliefs that has always held this country together in its large embrace. Americanism calls for liberty, equality, and democracy for all mankind. And it urges this nation to promote the American Creed wherever and whenever it can–to be the shining city on a hill, the “last, best hope of earth.” Ultimately, Americanism is derived from the Bible [bold mine-DL]. The Bible itself has been a grand unifying force in American society, uniting Christians of many creeds from Eastern Orthodox to Unitarian, and Jews, and Bible-respecting deists like Thomas Jefferson–and many others who respect and honor the Bible whatever their own religious beliefs. ~David Gelernter
Simply ridiculous. What can I say? Do Jews respect the Septuagint? Are they unified behind the New Testament? Jefferson “respected” the Bible the way that a butcher “respects” the carcass of an animal–he chopped up the New Testament and kept the bits of the Gospels that he thought were suitably “rational,” which leads me to note that my WWTW colleague Paul Cella has a good post on Gelernter’s latest. Paul’s Marcion reference is very good, since Gelernter is a modern gnostic of sorts, and the reference to Marcion makes the comparison with Jefferson only too obvious. If Marcionites, too, might be counted in the broad church of “Bible-respecting” folk, we can see just how utterly meaningless such respect is.
Gelernter’s article is something amazing to behold. It combines almost every hateful aspect of nationalism and every piece of degraded thinking shared by war supporters today. It blithely confuses opponents of particular wars with adherents of doctrinaire pacifism, a view that virtually no one in this country holds today. Anyone who opposes the war in Iraq knows all too well how idiotic it is to try to describe the leadership of the modern Democratic Party as pacifistic. If they were, they might at least have the stomach to try to end this war outright, and, of course, they do not. Gelernter sets a new standard for unintentional irony by damning globalism in the pages of The Weekly Standard, a flagship of globaloney if ever there was one. There is, of course, the required mockery of France and the obligatory nod to Joe Lieberman, and every other intellectually lazy rhetorical move that we have come to expect from neoconservatives. It is really quite dreadful.
Consider this bit of Gelernter’s “reasoning”:
You might argue that World War II has nothing to do with Iraq; after all, the Japanese started the fight by attacking our fleet at Pearl Harbor. But even the Japanese never succeeded in slaughtering civilians on the U.S. mainland. And those who think that our war in Iraq has nothing to do with the 9/11 murderers, or their friends whose ultimate target is America, are living in Fantasyland.
Actually, one might argue that WWII has nothing to do with Iraq because WWII ended over sixty years ago and was fought in entirely different parts of the world against radically different enemies. As for living in a fantasy, I expect that Gelernter would know all about that by now.
This is really a shame. Some years ago I heard good things about Gelernter’s Drawing Life (perhaps I heard incorrectly?), and I imagined that because of his personal experience he would have to have been keenly aware of the dangers of ideological fanaticism and the glorification of violence as a means of change. Apparently he has come to different conclusions.
Gelernter’s article is just a rehashed version of his new book’s thesis as applied to the latest political controversy, in this case the fight over Petraeus’ testimony. It confirms my impression that Gelernter’s book does not simply try to describe the idea of “Americanism.” A description and analysis of the idea might not indicate any approval of the thing being described. He might have written a book about Americanism describing the “Americanist heresy” and could have been quite hostile to it, but, of course, this is David Gelernter we’re talking about. Far from opposing the heresy, he seems interested in becoming its latest heresiarch. He is interested in championing his brand of Americanism quite actively, even if that means grossly distorting or oversimplifying American history, among other things, in the process. It also seems to mean extolling the virtues of every military conflict of the last century, going out of his way to defend the merits of the most astonishingly futile of wars. He manages to find words of praise for British intervention in WWI (!), which even one so belligerent as Niall Ferguson was sane enough to recognise as an unparalleled national disaster for Britain. Perhaps if more leaders in 1914 had belonged to the mythical church of appeasement that Gelernter has invented in this latest exercise in lame, shabby Europe-bashing, European civilisation would not have come crashing down in an orgy of bloodshed–not that I expect him to care about the fate of European civilisation, since he seems to loathe Europeans so intensely.
From the book description of Americanism:
If America is a religion, it is a religion without a god, and it is a global religion. People who believe in America live all over the world. Its adherents have included oppressed and freedom-loving peoples everywhere—from the patriots of the Greek and Hungarian revolutions to the martyred Chinese dissidents of Tiananmen Square.
Conflating one’s country with nationalist ideology is bad enough, but to imagine that your ideological nation is itself the font of a “religion,” and that Americanism is “derived from the Bible” at that, is so perverse that words fail me.