Sunday, in the Park



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Paul Harvey

You wouldn't think it was the 4th of July in the showdown between the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church at some Memorial Day remembrances at Arlington National Cemetery. You can't make this stuff up, even when you just so happen to have a historical analysis of the 2nd Ku Klux Klan's white Christian nationalism on its way out soon. My co-conspirator Kelly Baker looks at this bizarre confrontation here, in an op-ed piece for History News Network.

Some other pieces catching attention lately in our Sunday roundup:

I just finished reading Jennifer Burns's book Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, a completely fascinating biography and analysis of the impact of Rand's works as a historic "gateway drug to the right." The religious metaphors quickly come to mind when looking at how the aggressively proselytizing atheist worked to control her own cult of personality, how heretics from her "Collective" were shunned and exiled, how "The Collective" was sardonically named but eerily apt as a descriptor, and how her novelistic heroes operated as godlike mythical heroes and heroines.

Unlike Hobbits or children residing in Hogwarts, Rand's heroes have proven impossible to transfer to movies or television mini-series, the genius of the market having rejected at the box office movie adaptations of her agitprop novels. Peter Travers writes of this most recent screen adaption of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's monumental 1,168-page, 1957 novel gets the low-budget, no-talent treatment and sits there flapping on screen like a bludgeoned seal. Our local (Colorado) AM agitprop specialist Mike Rosen, of 850 AM radio out of Denver, hosted a special screening and wrote a series of god-awful editorials for the Denver Post attemtping to flog the film. Rosen provided post-screening commentary together with Michael "heck of a job" Brown, lately of FEMA and Katrina fame, and host of the nightly show on same said "blowtorch" of Colorado radio. The rapture is sounding better by the moment.

Author Jennifer Burns also covers how much William F. Buckley, Whittaker Chambers, and others of that pioneering conservative generation hated Rand, and how she returned the favor. Rand also apparently didn't think much of that noted collectivist sympathizer Friedrich Hayek, but then there was almost no one else that she did like. Hayek didn't really have a problem philosophically, for example, with national health insurance, which of course put him in the same camp with the slaves rather than the individualists, in Rand's eyes. All of this has come back in the news now thanks to the Rand-inspired politics of Paul Ryan, a development discussed further over at Mark Silk's Spiritual Politics blog.

(A side note unrelated to this blog but just interesting to read about in this book anyway: In the late 60s/early 70s, Rand opposed the Vietnam War, which further angered many conservatives, while she celebrated in Kennedy-esque language the Apollo space program, which pissed off libertarians who already had sort of broken from her. As for her temper, let's just say that good thing Twitter wasn't around then).

Speaking of money uber alles and the cash nexus, my friend Lerone Martin has a very popular "Open Letter to Creflo Dollar," concerning Dollar's defense of Bishop Eddie Long, here.

In other news:

John Schmalzbauer has an outstandingly interesting review of Darren Dochuk's From Bible Belt to Sunbelt in the new Evangelical Studies Bulletin. No link for it, but click on the ESB link for quick and very inexpensive addition to the mailing list of this very informative newsletter. The link also gives you access to a number of back issues from 2007-2010, with lengthy and very substantive reviews of important recent works by Barry Hankins, Thomas Kidd, and many others.

In "Roots of Bachmann's Ambition Began at Home," the New York Times goes over some of the same material that the Rolling Stone did in Menckenian excess (except not as funny as Mencken), about the origins of Michele Bachmann's political career in Minnesota, only without the hypervenilation. Of her appearances speaking in church basements early in her career, one attendee remembers, “It felt like we were in a tent, like a revival,” Ms. Cecconi said. “It was obvious Michele was the star."

While Huntsman and Romney split families and compete for the same donor base, Bachmann is competing equally with Romney and trouncing the relatively unknown Huntsman in Iowa. The two candidates Romney and Huntsman have Tea Party trouble alike, while Huntsman moves away from Romney's position on his faith and his politics articulated in 2008; Matt Bowman explores Huntsman's new generational Mormonism here for New Republic. See also Russell Fox's response to Bowman's piece here -- Fox feels that it is not a generational difference between the business Mormonism of Romney and the more renegade style of Huntsman, but rather that "Huntsman doesn’t take his Mormonism quite as seriously as pioneer-stock Romney does." Both pieces are well worth reading.

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