Geroux on ‘God’s Not Dead’ and Modern Conservatism


Robert Gerous, a political science professor at Depauw University, has an essay in Commonweal, the long-running liberal Catholic magazine, about the movie God’s Not Dead and the modern conservative impulse to frame everything as grievance and persecution.

I haven’t yet seen the movie – I expect to go later this week – but I expect the same feeling of dread and embarrassment that I felt when I visited the Creation Museum years ago. What I found during that experience was a series of tableaux in which established scientific theories were attacked with the most specious of arguments, suggestion and innuendo replaced reason, and academic culture was pilloried. From everything I’ve read, “God’s Not Dead” touches all these bases and more.

I have a theory about contemporary conservatism generally, and the religious right more specifically. They’ve studied the post-68 playbook of the center-left. They’ve appropriated the language of civil rights, the student movement and identity politics and turned it in a new direction: targeting “religious discrimination,” cultural indifference and even aggression (the “War on Christmas”), and so on…

What parades as a liberating experience of “speaking truth to power” is in fact profoundly disingenuous. The position and situation of the young man in the film is merely one of nothing more than a mobilized series of stale tropes, tableaux that support a worldview in which evangelical Christians are an oppressed minority. That we know this isn’t true is beside the point. Films like God’s Not Dead are the ideological expression of this stance, of a piece with the Creation Museum and Fox News histrionics around the holiday season. What we see in films like this is the elaboration of a closed circuit, a symbolic gated community in which to live.

Yep, he nailed it.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … contemporary conservatism generally, and the religious right more specifically. They’ve studied the post-68 playbook of the center-left. They’ve appropriated the language …

    This comes close to a pet perception of mine. In my version, based on the (purported) Hindu saying that “You become what you hate”, modern right-wingers are mirroring not just the ’60s left, but their own caricature of same: spoiled entitled brats in funny costumes acting out with hyperbolic language against contrived grievances, blind to their own inherited privileges in a miasma of unrealistic ideologies and puerile self-righteousness.

    If I’m right, the next generation’s counter-backlash will provide a spectacularly theatrical blow-out (at least if we assume that post-millennials pay enough attention to teabaggers that they can work up a bit of genuine hatred against them: I see little evidence of this so far, but a few climatological or industrial catastrophes may turn that around).

  2. minxatlarge says

    Not so much a pet perception Pierce R. Butler, as a carefully studied sociological phenomenon, but perhaps you haven’t read Strauss and Howe’s 1996 “Generations”. (Their accuracy has been creeping me out.)

    However, the next generation (born in the aftermath of the War on Terrorism and variously called Homelanders or the Terror Generation) are more likely to share traits with the Silent Generation: caution, conformity, and institutional trust (trust in the institutions of Gen Y, built during the next time they save our bacon, likely in the 2020’s). It will be the children of Gen Y, driven mad by their constant cheerful confidence, emphasis on social solidarity and lack of internal examination who will indulge in the next counter-culture movement. http://www.lifecourse.com/about/method/the-four-turnings.html

    History may not exactly repeat itself, but it does a heck of a job rhyming. Or spiraling. Or something.

    I’m going to stop telling you guys about it, since people really only believe what they learn for themselves. There are plenty of books, sites and videos on YouTube, if you want to figure this out. Start with how children react against the parenting they’ve received and how parenting styles vary between generations from Authoritarianism to Neglect, with tightening and loosening as the pendulum swings.

  3. says

    That we know this isn’t true is beside the point.

    If it’s not true, then how could they make documentaries like God’s Not Dead, Expelled, and Obama’s Rage of Rage?

  4. Sastra says

    They’ve studied the post-68 playbook of the center-left. They’ve appropriated the language of civil rights, the student movement and identity politics and turned it in a new direction: targeting “religious discrimination,” cultural indifference and even aggression (the “War on Christmas”), and so on…

    Ah, there is a technical name for this particular tactic

  5. says

    I’m fairly certain that Peewee Herman covered this pretty well with,

    “I know you are, but what am I?”.

    GOD, btw, is NOT dead; in the same sense that Mighty Mouse and Superman (among other fictional heroes) cannot be dead.

  6. says

    I should brush up on my knowledge of right wing propaganda again. Maybe watch that debate with Dawkins and the female creationist again. Na I think Christopher Hitchens vs William Lane Craig should more entertaining. But I have to say that Matt Dillahunty vs Sye Ten Burggencate was a classic. Sye is not nearly as receptive as chimpanzee, but hey when your that far gone from reality that’s entertainment. There is no way I could stand to hear Lee Strobel again. (That moron couldn’t find his way out of a torn paper bag.)

  7. skinnercitycyclist says

    I find it endlessly amusing that they use Nietzsche’s line, “Gott ist tot,” and have screaming hissy fits about it. As I understand Nietzsche, all he meant to say was that “god” no longer served as a central organizing idea of Western thought, something we hear Christianists bemoaning regularly when people like David Barton whine about secular culture (i.e., anything to the left of the Southern Baptist Convention).

    It’s not like they are outliers (maybe just liars) in not understanding Nietzsche, but they really should not use him if they don’t understand him…

  8. Abby Normal says

    They’ve studied the post-68 playbook of the center-left.

    Studied it? Contemporary conservatives are primarily made up of people who were center-left in 1968. They wrote it.

  9. D. C. Sessions says

    Contemporary conservatives are primarily made up of people who were center-left in 1968. They wrote it.

    Highly doubtful. Any boomer who was left of John Wayne was too busy getting stoned and laid in 68 to be writing playbooks. Music? Comics? Yes. Playbooks? Bummer, Dude.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    minxatlarge @ # 2 – Thanks for boosting my ego with the suggestion that my little idea has serious support – and for bringing me down again with a logical but dismaying conclusion. At least I got an intriguing book to add to my look-for list…

    Abby Normal @ # 8: Contemporary conservatives are primarily made up of people who were center-left in 1968.

    I dunno about that. Aside from Horowitz, Kristol, and the Clinton/Obama/Kerry axis, I can’t think of many examples (unless you want to count Shrub’s drug use as countercultural, and then you’d have to include William Buckley too).

  11. says

    “(unless you want to count Shrub’s drug use as countercultural, and then you’d have to include William Buckley too).”

    Wouldn’t that just make them libertarians–or do they have to watch porn, too?

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