James Davison Hunter, in his new book, and I predict perhaps one of the more influential studies of this decade (To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World
), examines the theme of how culture changes — and that leads him in Essay Two to the theme of power.
Do you see this issue in the Christian Right or the Christian Left? Where do you see this today with Christians advocating in the political process? [The operative, or weightiest, word for me here is “legitimacy”.] How much do folks put their legitimacy on the line with winning in the political process? How much of a “will to win” (or “dominate” or “colonize”) do you think is involved in the political process today? How does all of this connect to culture?
Hunter gets cheeky here when he lays all striving for power into the bed of Nietzsche and then connects all power striving the word domination, and I disagree with that set of bald connections, but he’s onto the right issue: power.
And his point in the opening chp of Essay Two is that ours is a day of politicization, and words of his can serve today as an opening warning about political striving. Since the New Deal, all things have been politicized. And by that he means we have increasingly begun to assert our views by striving to get the political system to weigh in our favor.
Here this: “Groups (women, minorities, gays, Christians, etc) have validity not only but increasingly through the rights conferred by the states. Issues gain legitimacy only when recognized by law and public policy” (103).
And a second issue emerges here: ideology. Ideology is when our partisan line in the political process dominates rhetoric and beliefs. Everything is interpreted through the lens of one’s political stance. “He’s a liberal; she’s a conservative. Therefore….”
Third, the will to power or the will to win or the will for my ideology or my partisan line to win means the person anchors beliefs in the power of the State to establish law and power and even the capacity to coerce in order to keep order. This he calls Nietzschean, and… well…. OK … but it’s a slur to say this. No one wants to be called Nietzschean. Then he develops the idea of ressentiment, or the negation of the other in order win or dominate.
It is easier to win in political power than it is to compromise or persuade another to our viewpoint.
Wednesday: the Christian Right. Friday: the Christian Left. Next Monday: Neo-Anabaptists.