Hippies of the Religious Right, Chapter Two: The Counterculture

So in Chapter Two, Shires has a brief discussion of the counterculture.  He drops all the right names (Roszak, Ellul) and along the way breaks down the appeal of the counterculture for what became Christian hippies.

The major thing for the “Chrippies” was that they wanted to keep the Golden Rule, freedom and expressive individualism of their parents’ modernist, secular approach to life and belief, but drop the conformism and money-hunger.  They “logic trapped” their parents by pointing out their obvious hypocrisies.

We in the future now might look at how easily and smoothly hypocrisy is dismissed as irrelevant in general political discourse, but the younger Silents and older Boomers were able to pull off confronting hypocrisy because their parents were in fact behaving in an untraditional way.  The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit was two-faced in a way that was historically rather new and thus freshly and particularly susceptible to cries of Hypocrite.  And the children of these parents took advantage of it, pressing that advantage as hard as they could most chances they got.

When you present an adulterer as a moral exemplar people might think you’re a hypocrite.

But the eagerness to trap their parents and authority figures in nets of hypocrisy exposed something Shires presents rather neutrally, the way in which freedom as a movement and ideal superseded the Civil Rights Movement rapidly.  People born from 1944-1960 had an 86% rate of formal religious training (Sunday school, catechism class, and the like) and while this filled many of them (the future Chrippies, what Shires terms the “spiritually sensitive”) with a longing for faith as a seamless garment, with life and belief as one, in practice they sought freedom from orthodox spiritual direction, instead delving into drugs as a path towards that goal of a seamless garment of life-faith.

The use of drugs for individualized spiritual awakening is an interesting contrast to the Dexedrine housewives of the postwar and 1950s timeframe.  The mainstream use of drugs to enforce conformity, particularly with women’s highly constrained and very modern form of the housewife role, is not mentioned by Shires, being outside the scope of his work.  But it something to consider for the era he’s speaking of.

Shires also discusses the original “We have to be intolerant of intolerance!” that was a prominent theme among these seekers and spiritually sensitive youth pursuing an ideal of pure love.  Weirdly, he downplays the sex-cult aspects that arose out of this love-worship.  He mentions an example of humane, saving love from M.A.S.H. the movie, in which a suicidal doctor is brought back with the love of his coworkers via them staging a pretend Last Supper and dosing him with a sleeping draught…only for him to be revived in “Heaven” where a beautiful nurse has sex with him.  Not exactly Biblically grounded (a recurring phrase Shires uses regarding the spiritually sensitive who became what I’m terming Chrippies or Christian hippies).

Shires describes the nurse as “compassionate and compliant”.  This implicit approval for “free love” with Christian sprinkles explains some of the odder acceptable fringes that flowered in the wake of the Jesus movement and the Christian hippies it produced.

Shires’ own language reveals some telling things about what roles women were to play as some of them rebelled against the artificial and novel form of the housewife role their parents and older sisters were performing.

Anyhow.  On to Chapter Three!

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Hippies of the Religious Right, Chapter One: Modern Culture– Mainstream and Mainline

In the first chapter, Shires begins to lay out the groundwork for his exploration of how the counterculture spun off Christianized hippies.  He does this by pointing to the rise of modernism, with its whispers of neophilia and materialism that carried a clinical yet intense passion for material gain and economic security.  He doesn’t get quite as blunt as what the Third Child study researchers found, that the Boomers’ parents were people who thought hiding your Christian faith was fine if it meant getting a raise. But he does point out that the Boomers’ parents were very invested in Getting Paid and that they accepted the idea that church is just for Sundays easily.

When I started hanging around in evangelical circles, there was a free-floating idea that “Church is just for Sundays” was a recent thing and that in the 1950s, say, it wasn’t like that.  This is completely wrong.  “Church is just for Sundays” is roughly a century old at this point in terms of American religious practice.  By the 1950s it was even codified that there was no particular immorality or degenerancy attached to not attending.

One very interesting thing Shires does in the first chapter is explain that the liberal-material Christian view was an accommodation with the advances of technology and scientific thinking.  He briefly mentions something I’ve encountered in some of the early 20th century American writers I’ve read, the pushback against early-stage Affluenza which predated the counterculture by a couple of generations.  It is beyond the scope of his book, but the post-frontier Nature-love types like Gene Stratton-Porter were forerunners to the counterculture Christian-hippies.

Part of the fallout of the high highs and low lows of technology-driven rapid prosperity was liberal Christianity and wider social mores adopting conformism as a tool against unchecked greed and lust for profits and as a way to preserve economic prosperity and social stability.  They were anti-technocrats, but ones who integrated a technocratic perspective into their faith, secularizing the story of the loaves and fishes as merely a model of sharing.  That watered-down, materialist approach was already a dominant force in American Christianity prior to the counterculture.

The modernist, liberal Christians whose perspective dominated much of the middle classes that Christian-hippies came from were essentially Pelagian individualist materialists.  There was nothing supernatural about God and faith, it was just about love, and further, love that could be expressed by just living a good life and not being too greedy.  There was no Again to be Born.

The “Chrippies” rejected this idea of worship being a Sunday thing and optional at that as too private and self-contained a way to be Christian.  They wanted a more muscular, open, light blazing kind of faith.  Which leads to Chapter Two, a discussion of the counterculture.

Early impressions from the Lion’s Den

  • Crime is at night, in the wee hours.  There is not much of it, and it is almost entirely resolved by locking your car doors before going inside.  Apparently people (not cops though) telling other people to leave their windows down to avoid breakage just causes thieves to laugh heartily in a low-crime area and cackle at the easy loot.
  • More open attitudes towards occasional and part-time use of childcare while mom is home.  More teenage girls available to offer it.
  • Weirdly, living in million to two million dollar lakefront homes makes people hate property taxes with a burning passion not extinguished by taking the boat out for a lake barbeque.

The sick system of conservative home life hurts men too.

A selfish man is going to create a sick system on an individual level, but it’s the SYSTEM that’s the problem because the husband needs to be earning a living and multiple closely spaced children can sink an isolated nuclear family no matter how nice the guy is.

The above sentence has been sitting for a couple of years because I thought I would add more, but I think there’s not much to add except that it’s why I’m totally fine with, say, postpartum doulas being covered on health insurance despite my generally ex-libertarian, small-government leanings.  Private retreat creates fragile, isolated nuclear families, but accepting that part of community is functional, civic-minded government helps nuclear families stay strong enough to build the web of external relationships that lead to a high-trust community where random childless people can babysit a night a month.

Private retreat is the default right wing political activism.

That people doing it don’t feel that way doesn’t matter, the practical effects are nearly the same as if they did (and plenty do feel there’s a political aspect.)

The problem with this being the way right wing people respond to mass social changes that are detrimental is that it’s expensive on a collective level and a personal level.  The costs are so high that right wing people engaging in this type of activism are almost entirely cut off from any other kind of activism.

In contrast, the left wing just sprinkles political dust on their lifestyle and keeps on moving.  The left doesn’t promote marriage as the optimal vehicle for private retreat.  It doesn’t promote private retreat at all.  The right overwhelmingly does.  It’s not that the right does no explicit activism, it’s that the default setting is to hide away privately and replicate lost social goods within the nuclear family regardless of whether it’s desirable, feasible or possible within the limitations of a nuclear family.

This breaks women.  Women are yelled at for not being able to replicate the social goods of an entire city, town or village, and also yelled at for desiring those goods and also yelled at for not taking on additional community-wide functions as more and more of society breaks down into atomization and isolated individuality.

It also breaks men, but in a more subtle way in which they are told there’s no serious obstacles to their masculine expression or nature except their own will, which is an immensely damaging falsehood.  This is as true of the mainstream right wing media as it is of numerous far right blogs.

I’d expand on this more, like perhaps delving into the trades myth that many in the right cling to but make sure to never put their kids into, or how the conservative stack for women doesn’t (that is, the pieces don’t work with each other and reinforce each other; homeschooling comes at the expense of a clean house, as a very typical example).  But our private retreat means I don’t have another woman or young girl around to keep my youngest from melting down about getting a small spot of soup on one sleeve. So I have to go deal with that.

Are American mothers influenced by stimulant abuse among college and business people?

I think so.  This is basically a link dump, though. Stimulant refers to adderall and other strong prescription-needed stimulant drugs, so not coffee or nicotine.

https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/12/28/adderall-risks-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/

This is the usual glorious TLDR; from Scott Alexander.  Steve Sailer picked it up and discussed it here, and if you even glance at the comments you’ll see a bunch of his readers use stimulants, previously used stimulants or are frothingly envious of people who have access to stimulants.

As to how this relates to American motherhood, since we’re closing in on 60% of births to women with a BA or higher, you have the largest historical group ever on an annual basis of women who came out of the hothouse high-performance, heavy-stimulant using college environments and decided to go for marriage and kids.  So they are bringing in expectations of how to “be productive” that are influenced by heavy stimulant abuse, even if they didn’t mess with that stuff themselves or don’t know anyone who did.

It also explains some of the extraordinary cultural callousness around sleep deprivation, as well.  It’s not just that being sleep deprived yourself makes you cold to other women experiencing it.  It’s that the entire media culture is full of stimulant abusers who don’t think about the fact that nursing and pregnant women can’t possibly solve their sleep issues the way the stimulant users do.

The selection bias of women who come up in those high-performance environments but end up starting families anyway and trying to make it all work without those little helpers (and without cultural support to “trade across” with actual domestic support) is worth exploring, rather than continuing to assert that women are delaying  marriage and childbearing to be scandalous cat ladies.

The Contraceptive Divorce Protectant

I mention it a lot in comments, and it occurs to me it’s worthy of a post, since I know a lot of not-contraceptive-using Christians IRL and online.  But essentially part of the fallout from the WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE DIVORCE IS SO GREAT epidemic in the 1970s and even 1980s is that people who are 35-50 now were told by older people who’d been burnt that the problem wasn’t marrying young, it was not party animal-ing young together.  And with contraception, this was now on the table.

The belief among quite a few older folks is that marrying young and then jumping into “adulting”  and parenting all at once was the source of their or their divorced friends/neighbors/relatives’ woe.  For all the talk of how women/men are encouraged to live it up singly during their 20s, there is definitely a pro-marriage strain among evangelical and conservative-living secular people that living it up ~together~ and then settling down as older, financially solid boring types is the way to keep a marriage together past when the kids are 18, or even just school-aged.

It is something I didn’t really notice among secular types, although it was certainly there.  It started jumping out at me when we got married and started hanging around married Christians who did it before age 25 and seeing this play out over the years.  And then, of course, it’s not uncommon online either.

For both religious and health reasons we’re not really on Team Contraception, but I do think it’s important to know why people make use of it, because there are people still trying to live out the promises and claims that it would help marriages stay love matches and all that.