Monday, October 20, 2008

pomo conservatism creep

The fact that people can say things like "When I was an Episcopalian priest (before I became a Catholic)" and think that this is the most natural thing in the world, while they espouse a politics of traditionalism, lends further credence to my idea that postmodern conservatism, far from being the provenance of an intellectual and educated (and very stylish, may I say) vanguard, is really the default stance for the ideology. Traditionalists, tremble before the squishy power of pomo, which comes seeping in your own windows while you try nail to your neighbors' shutters closed....

Update: Link fixed. I have the hardest time with those Culture11 links for some reason.

4 comments:

paul said...

Religious conversion implies a false 'traditionalism'? Haven't people been converting between religions for all of human history? Perhaps not always with the same 'awareness'; as Charles Taylor has pointed out, only after about 1500 and the disenchantment of the natural world was there a real living option to "choose" between atheism and religion. I quite agree with your pomocon post from last week, but I'm not sure if this applies; there are plenty of ways to hold religious views after postmodernism (indeed, many postmodernists do hold religious views; Kearney, Marion, Derrida, Levinas, Rosenzweig); political conservatism is something else entirely.

Freddie said...

True, and I'm aware that I'm being too cute here. What's required is a kind of mind-reading of this writer that, of course, is beyond me. But my suspicion is that, for many people who convert these days, it really is a notion of choosing a religion and not of realizing which religion tells the capital-t Truth. Because that really is what is required of genuinely traditional religion, not merely believing that one is more true than the others but that it is true and real in a transcendant way.

Anonymous said...

Your link is broken, just FYI

paul said...

I would certainly agree with you that religious conversions, for many educated people, turn out to be shallow 'lifestyle' window-dressing (i.e. people who call themselves 'Buddhist,' by which they mean, they have a Buddha statue and have read the Dhammapada once, or whatever), or some sort of pragmatic choice, like, "I rationally judge that this wisdom tradition seems to have 'more truth' than this other wisdom tradition," as if any random person can just decide this, and without any reference to something being absolutely True, and where the decisions are usually actually based on something like "I prefer the social circle of this new group," or any other number of factors. And so it's quite true that this particular author that you linked may have been one of these 'traditionalists' who doesn't really take postmodernism or his own motives seriously enough ... but then it's also possible that he experienced some sort of gradual or sudden revelation.

Though to address your second point, if you look at the history of religion, within every tradition you find accomodation for other traditions; I've read plenty of Buddhists who go pretty far in their respect for Christianity (and not in a shallow 'ecumenical' way), and Christianity has a long history of incorporating the truths of other traditions, seeing where 'pagans' got things right. Or Hinduism, which basically claims that all other religions are included within it (i.e. Christianity is perceived, at least in some of the people that I've read, as a particularly popular form of bhakti yoga). So there really can be a sense in which the claims of (1) capital-t Truth and (2) 'my religion is more true than others' can be reconciled. And there are very famous historical cases, Augustine for example, of people who "choose a religion" literally based upon rationally deciding which worldview is more coherent or consistent (though, notably, his decision was tentative until he had a revelatory experience that confirmed it).