Gnostic Americans, Ted Cruz and why conservatives play to lose.

This was originally going to be about gnostic conservatives, but I came to realize while talking about the post instead of writing it down that it’s really about Americans overall.

To begin, there is a core to American-ness that is Gnostic.  It’s about retreating into a fantasy world of abstractions and perfections to take yourself away from the realities of your drudgery.  There is a divide in American society between those for whom suffering feeds that retreat away from reality and those who are more…practical.  For the former, political solutions revolve around embracing someone who promises a return to an abstract perfect time where Constitutionalism reigned supreme and people dutifully and legitimately followed process correctly and honestly.  Thus, Ted Cruz.  He did a lot of symbolic stuff that in the abstract was highly conservative by this measure, but in practice was useless because it was never going to be made law and could never be made law as it was written.

Conservatives tend to hail from frontier stock, and it’s long been a frontier staple to retreat into a fantasy world after the long, brutal, difficult days of frontiering.  And there’s been an Amish-ing, a longstanding tendency for the most conservative conservatives willing to vote Republican or otherwise be mainstream to marry each other and it’s been going on for quite a few generations now.

The kind of personality that can thrive with a frontier mindset will be detail-oriented and tend to hyperfocus, mildly to extremely anti-social and pathologically independent minded.  Yes, this sounds kind of spectrum-ish.  I think there has been a lot of intermarriage between men and women with those traits and that now a mindset even a little removed from that is considered inauthentic.  Anyway it leads to embracing abstractions over solutions because there is no sense of you personally being able to conquer it all.

Relating all this back to the Gnostic thing, there’s this idea in Americanness more broadly that beautiful symbols are worth more than practical results.  One first female x is worth more than better living conditions and social status for women in general.  In many ways the ridiculous left half of the political aisle is just taking that symbolism-love to its natural extremes.

But so does the right half, with their retreats into more and more disordered private spheres, constantly clinging to individual symbolic examples of how those spheres are perfectly functional and an effective substitute for numerous public goods.

What alt-right criticism of “cuckservatives” fumbles at is this long-range outcome of being worn down by that endless retreat into being unable to consider anything other than beautiful loserdom as your lot in this life.  Of course they commit their own gnostic errors with the over-emphasis on protests and populist politicking.

But as I watch God-fearing, pro-life Christians debate supporting the ($(@#*@$* Libertarian Party because oh golly gee that Trump feller is sCArY, I find this core gnostic tendency irritating and stupid.  I do have pity and sympathy because understanding where it comes from means it makes sense, but other people around them without that information will just think that Christians and especially Republican-voting ones are ignorant and hypocritical once again.

Oh, this is also why the SAHM situation is so hopeless.  Gnostic American SAHMs fall in love with obviously fake personas crafted by narcissists who tell them that they should feel great about getting a second load of laundry in that day precisely so they never feel they can ask for real society-wide or even family-wide support and assistance.  That woman obviously isn’t out thar a farm wifin’ in such expensive hair styles and clothes, but yet women who are truly struggling believe her to be a role model and “honest, authentic” wife and mother.  And they believe because they get caught up in the charismatic pantheism that says you should spend your time cheering the presence of God in a floorboard you’re scrubbing and that this will grant you a state of bliss and spiritual uplift no matter how much drudging your days seem to pile up.

The idea that a lot of SAHMs just have a technical problem and a maid twice a month or whatever would suddenly improve their personal quality of life and improve their families’ lives as well, this idea is too…practical.  Too concrete, not airy enough, not promising spiritual ecstasy in the middle of screaming kids and chopped hot dog dinners.

Because as Frontier-Americans disproportionately, conservatives bring to their version of Gnostic Americanism the unformed immaturity of a child, as the frontier mythos is entirely shaped by children’s views of the frontier.  The Little House books are the Ur-example.  The numerous adult memoirs never became mythical in American society, only the stuff written from the perspective of children and teenagers.

The Frontier was a massive subsidized LARP project and just because it was a game that could kill you doesn’t make it any less hugely subsidized and welfarist.

Anyway this is very much a beginning, as ever.

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41 thoughts on “Gnostic Americans, Ted Cruz and why conservatives play to lose.

  1. “That woman obviously isn’t out thar a farm wifin’ in such expensive hair styles and clothes, but yet women who are truly struggling believe her to be a role model and “honest, authentic” wife and mother. And they believe because they get caught up in the charismatic pantheism that says you should spend your time cheering the presence of God in a floorboard you’re scrubbing and that this will grant you a state of bliss and spiritual uplift no matter how much drudging your days seem to pile up.”

    Yes, lets be honest. Life is mostly mundane drudgery, but dare say that or anything practical and you are “depressed and negative”. Admitting that life is not all sunshine and lollipops gets you accusations of not having faith or that Satan has a hold on you. If you aren’t bouncing off the rooftops with scrubbrush in hand like the chimney sweepers in Mary Poppins, then you aren’t doing it right and your soul is in danger.

    “The idea that a lot of SAHMs just have a technical problem and a maid twice a month or whatever would suddenly improve their personal quality of life and improve their families’ lives as well, this idea is too…practical. ”

    Right, a technical problem rather than a spiritual problem. I just wrote today that quite frankly your relationships with your husband and kids are far more important than a clean house and carefully prepared food from scratch. Although, if that is what your husband wants then, fine…but I think most would rather have their wife energized for them. Paying that maid is worth it for a few or several hours of snuggles and sex at the end of the day. Of course though then it really doesn’t count does it–you fail as a woman because you can’t clean, cook from scratch, homeschool, run errands, take care of pets, and provide mind blowing sex all at once.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think there’s a lot of falsity in promising non-stop spiritual epiphanies from scrubbing stuff. Looking around the Bible, where are the ecstatically happy scrubbers? Where is the praise of the woman with a really sparkly menorah and shiny kiddush cup? That’s not the sort of domestic effort that evokes praise in the Bible–the authors of the OT and NT are much more impressed by productive labor, hospitality, and generosity to the less fortunate.

      There’s something really off about the idea that our relationship to THINGS is going to supply our primary connection to the Almighty.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Do you actually believe the author of that blog is a fake persona, or does the way she present her lifestyle seem contrived? I have to admit some of what she says is lofty and unrealistic. When my mom scrubbed the floors, she didn’t use that time to cheer in the presence of God– she was asking God why her kids were so damn messy and bad!

    To the point of this post, people don’t think about the living conditions and status of wives and mothers because wives and mothers are considered cogs in a machine, rather than a person of status within a family and community structure. Single people have more status than married mothers, because single people are able to “conquer it all.” It’s funny to say that, because singles don’t have anywhere near the responsibilities and stress to deal with but nobody seems to remember that detail.

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    • She is a real woman, but she’s a relatively well off member of an established farming family in her little section of Canada and she’s been presenting herself as a strugglehut farm wifey who lucked into a lil’ ol’ successful book deal a few years ago, even though she’s been blogging furiously long before that point with the same expensive everything and with the goal of hitting the big time. The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond is more honest.

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  3. Case on point to what I was saying earlier….
    http://lorialexander.blogspot.com/2016/06/is-your-faith-effective.html

    “Too many Christians go around telling others how broken they are and how they must die to themselves daily. We sing songs in church about our brokenness. Many complain about how sinful they are and share their weaknesses with others. Why would unbelievers be attracted to this behavior or to a powerless Christ? Doesn’t the God of the universe live inside of them? To many this is a badge of humility to wear one’s weaknesses in the open for all to see, but have they ever considered that such sins are placed on the cross so as to stop entangling them again and again? ”

    See, in other words, you are depressed and negative if you talk about your brokeness and sin and rather the implication is we should talk about how great we are, how perfect we are now that we are in Christ and this explains why so many bloggers present themselves that way. If you aren’t singing with joy while scrubbing the floors the “God of the Universe” must not live in you. An awareness of our brokeness is good for us to keep us humble and not get full of ourselves.

    Lori also asks: “Do others want what you have?”
    That really stuck out and it hit me—there is a reoccurring subtle theme in what some of the godly women write that suggests their goal is to make others stumble with envy. That it is a Christian goal to make others “want what you have”.
    Non-Christians need to be met “where they are at” and they will relate best to a person who shares their sin, their brokeness rather than they will to someone who goes around singing with joy and how perfect they are now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stone said:

      “Lori also asks: “Do others want what you have?”
      That really stuck out and it hit me—there is a reoccurring subtle theme in what some of the godly women write that suggests their goal is to make others stumble with envy. That it is a Christian goal to make others “want what you have”.
      Non-Christians need to be met “where they are at” and they will relate best to a person who shares their sin, their brokeness rather than they will to someone who goes around singing with joy and how perfect they are now.”

      Yeah.

      What LA misses is that most people can see right through plastic church lady Christianity. It’s not actually that edifying.

      While it’s true that modern people tend to think hypocrisy is way worse a sin than it actually is, at the same time, it is very important for Christians who want to reach moderns to remember how much moderns despise hypocrisy. Moderns value authenticity. We’ve got to be real and be truthful to reach them. We can’t just try to look good–we have to be good, too.

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  4. I take issue with that line of thought–“Do others want what you have?”

    Well, some may. And some may not. If I’m walking with God, and I demonstrate love and humility rather than perfection, it will draw some and repel others. It explicitly states that in the Bible.

    It has driven me nuts for YEARS when I hear from the pulpit and from others that I must be doing something wrong if everyone isn’t super-duper attracted to my life. I mean, like, um, hello–people were repelled by Jesus Himself. And when they got closer and closer to Him, He’d say more polarizing stuff like, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

    So, no.

    Recently, a couple of old friends that I thought my “lifestyle choices” had repelled (like uh having several kids, for one) got in touch with my H through FB to ask for my e-mail and then tell me how much they think of me and miss me and such things…I honestly was in shock! Anyway, point being that you just don’t know–even if people currently arent’ drawn to your way of life (SAHMing), someday they might! (One of these friends, when I had my first baby and brought her to see several friends at my old workplace, when I asked if she wanted to hold her, outright said, “Um, no,” and acted like my newborn was diseased.)

    Personally, I prefer not to vote for a narcissistic persona, and that’s part of why my vote will go elsewhere. 😉

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    • Nicky said:

      “Well, some may. And some may not. If I’m walking with God, and I demonstrate love and humility rather than perfection, it will draw some and repel others. It explicitly states that in the Bible.

      “It has driven me nuts for YEARS when I hear from the pulpit and from others that I must be doing something wrong if everyone isn’t super-duper attracted to my life. I mean, like, um, hello–people were repelled by Jesus Himself.”

      Right.

      And sometimes, no matter how attractive your attitude is, it’s REALLY obvious that things are hard.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Eh, Trump’s not selling a persona, he isn’t pretending he’s still married to his first wife. And anyone running for President via the major parties is a narcissist, and probably most going via third parties.

      Trump’s bluster isn’t fake, I think this is one of those spectrum gulf issues. My husband says I think very much like Trump and that this is why I understand what he says.

      Trump could never be a megachurch pastor, his personality is not made for those people. And in many little ways I think the preponderance of those guys and the politicians who riff off them is a bigger problem than a populist populisting.

      More to the point of the rest of your comment, the biggest repelling I get is from frontier-Americans. It’s a gulf I’m trying to understand more so I can reach across it.

      Liked by 1 person

            • You Know Who said:

              “Well it’s slightly more complicated than that because I’m white and I get pretty close to the same treatment. People in this part of the world are really, really clannish.”

              My family lives in western WA and while I don’t know about everybody, I do know my parents and they definitely resemble that. For many people, the whole point of living out in the country is not having to deal much with other people (aside from work).

              Plus, some country people are shady.

              Related: Washington and Oregon have very low church attendance compared to the rest of the country.

              http://dailysignal.com/2015/02/22/state-rank-church-attendance/

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                • You Know Who said:

                  “THEY ARE SO SHADY”

                  Here’s a rough draft of a list (feel free to add, everybody!):

                  –unpermitted building projects
                  –iffy disability/welfare claims
                  –tax irregularities
                  –pot plantations (that’s more respectable in WA now, of course)
                  –iffy homeschooling
                  –iffy waste disposal practices
                  –puppy mills/pet neglect

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                  • – hiding rape and incest
                    – local government corruption + family businesses = certain people with certain last names own and run everything, even though you’re not sure they can read
                    – enabling multiple generations of heroin addiction, basically until the homesteading capital runs out

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                    • You Know Who said:

                      “– local government corruption + family businesses = certain people with certain last names own and run everything, even though you’re not sure they can read”

                      Yeah. There’s a family in my old stomping grounds that runs the county roads as their own personal fiefdom. A relative of mine had a look at the list of employees once, and it was chockablock with the extended family. It wouldn’t be obvious to an outside auditor because a lot of the last names are different, but if you know the local genealogies, it’s really, really clear.

                      Liked by 1 person

    • I take issue with that line of thought–“Do others want what you have?”

      Well, some may. And some may not. If I’m walking with God, and I demonstrate love and humility rather than perfection, it will draw some and repel others. It explicitly states that in the Bible.

      This is a little off-topic– I’d say here this is where people need to recognize God lays out different paths for everyone’s lives. There isn’t a huge difference from “do others want what you have?” to “why can’t I have what others have?” A difference in perspective, but the same attitude nonetheless.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Maea said:

        “There isn’t a huge difference from “do others want what you have?” to “why can’t I have what others have?” A difference in perspective, but the same attitude nonetheless.”

        Yeah. I suppose LA means that primarily from a spiritual point of view, but it’s no more uplifting to envy another person’s relationship with God than it is to envy them their husband and children or house or car. (Isn’t that a common plot point in novels set in convents? The “bad” nun mistreats the “good” nun because she’s envious of the “good” nun’s spiritual gifts. I believe there’s something like that in The Song of Bernadette.)

        Also, come to think of it, it’s pretty darn odd to go around pretending to have some degree of spiritual peace and ecstasy that one doesn’t actually have in the hopes of getting other people to join you so they also can pretend to have something they don’t really have… Basically, it amounts to a sort of spiritual MLM.

        Let’s not.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Also, come to think of it, floating around full of spiritual uplift is not that consistent with continually beating the tar out of your kids. It’s an oddity of certain corners of conservative Christianity that those two activities are viewed as both being a sign of being a good Christian mother and there’s thought to be no contradiction in combining the two.

          You can imagine what THAT combination looks like to outsiders.

          I am more and more convinced that the authors of the New Testament would be horrified by the length to which many modern Christians go in making Christianity look unnecessarily bad to non-believers. St. Paul cared A LOT about not unnecessarily giving offense and about meeting people where they are–see 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

          Liked by 2 people

          • This is goes back a while I think, and it is influenced by strong sympathies towards hierarchy, IMHO.

            I know Frederick Douglass recalled his prayer teaching uncle to be particularly strict with the switch. He blamed that on the influence of slavery’s hierarchy, as many do today, but I think there might be more going on than that. Many places with an emphasis on hierarchy (particularly religiously ordained hierarchy) will have a tendency to see a physical correlate in that, particularly the rougher the cultural circumstances are or were. There is some debate on this, but many people believe that many of Japan’s traditional Buddhist temple schools used a lot of corporal punishment as well.

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              • This is true, YKW.

                In my experience growing up, when the father was the one distributing the corporal punishment, and the kid knew Dad wasn’t going to be wishy washy on the whether or not the penalty would be met out, kids got far fewer spankings.

                Modern day corporal punishment (and by modern I really mean post-modern, LOL) is some version of what Dr. John Townsend called “ignore and zap”: parents putting up with inappropriate behaviors for too long, and then finally blowing a gasket.

                I suspect that child abuse is much more prevalent in this age where boundaries and corporal punishment are frowned upon than it was when corporal punishment and parents setting boundaries was more accepted. And yes, I realize that sometimes what passed for corporal punishment in those days would be instantly labeled abuse today.

                But I can count the number of whippings I got on less than one hand, and this from a father who was a strict disciplinarian. Same with my siblings. They just weren’t needed as much.

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                  • The Pearl’s are odd; they are almost behaviorist, except for the heavy emphasis on punishment.

                    I think what is quite new is this increased emphasis on ritualization, etc. in punishment. It was/is most obvious in schools than in parenting. But I think some of it has definitely crept into parenting, and it might have part of its origins there.

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                • I think if we normalized a swat on the behind in public, a lot of parents would be alleviated of the tension and stress. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a swat on the butt, or on the hand, or using firm tone/language. I also think parents shouldn’t be afraid to make the distinction between good and bad. The real world is full of good and bad, and doesn’t serve children to avoid the word “bad” simply because it has too much baggage (so I’ve been told).

                  When I was growing up, my mom would break off a tree branch and wail on us. My upbringing was Medieval style and not something I want to really see brought back to popularity. Unfortunately, it’s very extreme situations like my upbringing which deters people more sane and even-tempered than my parents to do away with enforcing boundaries and discipline.

                  I don’t think people actually beat kids the way my sibs and I were beat. Spankings, slaps, etc. yes and I’m sure a lot of it was warranted. Spare the rod, spoil the child you know. When children are bleeding from beatings, or sustain injuries, is where there’s a huge problem.

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                  • By the way, what is your background? US, or foreign?

                    I think one aspect of parenting in earlier times was simply more tolerance for variance. Which was both a good and a bad thing; sometimes harsh, sometimes more understanding.

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                  • Check out the Amazon reviews of To Train up a Child.

                    The Pearls are famous for such things as the following:

                    –1/4 plumbing line to be carried around at all times
                    –corporal punishment for five and six month old babies
                    –first time obedience with no discussion
                    –keep hitting until the child is broken.

                    I have a lot to say on the subject, but I’ll just leave it for now by mentioning that Lori Alexander thinks that the Pearls hung the moon.

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                    • You Know Who said:

                      “There are people in the US practicing actual beating, though, they’ve just isolated themselves and you won’t meet them in your day to day life.”

                      Yeah.

                      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Let’s not.”

    Ha ha, no kidding!

    And TPC, agreed–I don’t know how you can not be narcissistic on some deeper level these days and run for president. It just seems like par for the course. Agreed as well about the mega church + politicians thing. It’s just…off.

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  6. I guess all I want people to want that I have is…Jesus. The other stuff is, like Maea said, walking right into envy. I mean, yeah, I’d really LIKE it if more people thought being a mom was a good thing, and staying at home with them was also good (obviously it isn’t always). I’d love it if people were not repelled by the thought of having more than 2 kids. That’d be great! But if they’re not envious of me, um, I get it. I really do. As said earlier, there’s no hiding the fact that it’s hard.

    It’s just that hard things shouldn’t only put us off *just* because they are hard.

    Some of the retreat (pulling away from others unlike them) that SAHM’s end up doing could sometimes, I think, be due to being rejected by just about every peer group they could potentially have in the church. I know that many of my friends pulled away from me once I had kids and decided to stay home. It was like they just could not relate, or even had any desire to try. I became an alien species to some friends. It was crazy when, at the church we used to go to before we moved, we became friends with all the families and people at different ages and stages of life, across the board. It was so refreshing to find a community where people actually tried to relate to each other.

    Then we moved and now it’s back to the same polarizing community mindset.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. AmyP I can’t reply to your last comment – but I actually have no problem with that kind of nepotism if the roads or whatever are actually getting taken care of. The problem in the PNW is that stuff isn’t getting taken care of; instead everyone’s nieces and girl cousins get jobs doing social media for the state (yes really) and get married to massively corrupt developers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You Know Who said:

      “AmyP I can’t reply to your last comment – but I actually have no problem with that kind of nepotism if the roads or whatever are actually getting taken care of. The problem in the PNW is that stuff isn’t getting taken care of; instead everyone’s nieces and girl cousins get jobs doing social media for the state (yes really) and get married to massively corrupt developers.”

      I think the roads are basically taken care of, although I haven’t lived there for a long time.

      The developers and social media stuff is something I’ve never heard of, but I’m from a much less with-it area. In my home town, social media is mainly just for having big fights in public with your sister-in-law…

      We do have a Godfather/Mr. Potter type who lends money to struggling businesses and then hoovers them up when they (inevitably) fail.

      Liked by 1 person

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