The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation, by James C. Russell
This post will go in a different direction. In my earlier posts regarding this book (here and here), I believe the stage has been set – the theory of the case: what happens when a folk-religious society and a universal religion collide? How does this collision alter the characteristics of each of the two traditions? In future posts, I will examine the particulars of the folk-religious German tribes meeting with the universal Catholic religion.
But today, a detour. This examination has brought to the fore some thoughts about libertarianism as a universal religion; it is here where we will spend some time.
Matthew 10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
We will come to this verse shortly; I offer it here only to suggest that this is kept in mind while reading the post.
We are told by some libertarians that the NAP is for all – regardless of background, tradition, culture, religion, etc. It is universal. That observation and historical analysis offer a mountain of evidence to the contrary is irrelevant: we just need to teach them, show them, be logical, demonstrate the economic benefits, etc. Once we do this, they will see the light.
All this time we’re talking and sharing our Rational View
A billion other voices are spreading other news
Or maybe not. Others, myself included, believe that a certain cultural soil is beneficial, if not necessary – a tradition conducive from which liberty may blossom. I have found the best example in what is referred to as Western Civilization, and specifically in the law and tradition of the Germanic Middle Ages.
The author places Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and several mystery cults in the category of universal religions. These are characterized as revealed, prophetic, or historical religions. These are religions with specific doctrinal beliefs – these religions are doctrine-centered.
Universal religions offer access to an existence that transcends that which is normally associated with a biological view of human life – for example, eternal salvation:
According to most universal religions, this existence is attainable by all mankind through initiation into a community of belief and adherence to a universal ethical code.
You will find here a commonality with those who believe in a universal libertarianism: such as these offer an existence that transcends that which is normally associated with a biological view of human life. Universal libertarians ignore the fact that humans are human – born into a tradition, culture, community; defining “liberty” (if they even care to at all) in a very different way than that offered by the libertarian understanding of the non-aggression principle.
This universalism goes further, to include…
…attitudes of general indifference or opposition toward the sociobiological principle of group survival through in-group altruism.
…a rejection of the world-accepting sociobiological principle of group survival through in-group altruism.
Again, a characteristic certainly inherent in many that can be described as universal libertarians. Yet, how can “in-group altruism” be acceptable to a libertarian of any type? One answer is offered by E. O. Wilson, when asked:
“How can altruism, which by definition reduces personal fitness, possibly evolve by natural selection?” He responds: “The answer is kinship…”
Kinship – the foundation of “nation”; in other words, a natural (sociobiological) part of being human. A similar response is offered by Mises (here) and Rothbard (here and here).
Like other universal religions, the early Christian church was an artificial kin group, membership available to the individual without regard to sex, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Of course, it was held together in the body of Christ…which gave it an advantage over other universal religions – but I am getting ahead of myself.
To establish a religion that is to be accepted universally (voluntarily or by force) requires a world empire. According to Ernst Troeltsch, this has been achieved in the past via several factors, to include:
…the destruction of national religions, which was a natural result of the loss of national independence; the mingling of races, which led to the mingling of various cults…
And in this we can see that individualism and universalism go hand in hand; a time of societal decay, massive population dislocations and relocations. From Everett Ferguson:
Individualism may seem a paradox alongside universalism, but the two are corollaries. The breaking of traditional patterns of inherited conduct in the enlarged world of the Hellenistic age threw men back upon themselves and gave opportunities for individual expression.
Absent these “traditional patterns of inherited conduct,” we are left with dictate to determine our patterns of conduct. And who or what will dictate? Of course, a universal state will happily step in to fill the void. And we will find that such individualism will result in the most collectivist universalism known to man. Just ask Cultural Marxists about their plans.
Having expanded on the idea of a world-rejecting universal religion, I have compared this to the desires of universal libertarians. Am I equating one with the other? Do I denounce Christianity for such universal hopes as I do libertarians? No and no.
Christianity has something going for it that libertarianism – or any other man-made religion (or supposedly other-worldly religion) – doesn’t have: Christ, the Son of God. Oh yeah…and God.
So now…you are wondering: what was the point of the verse with which bionic began this post?
Even Christ, in all His glory and with the might of God the Father behind Him, knew that not all would be open to His universal religion. In light of this, you might think universal libertarians would be a bit more humble (and realistic) in their expectations.
From Elwin H. Powell:
Despite “a rising level of material comfort, and times of relative tranquility like the 2nd century A.D….beneath the splendor of imperial Rome was that ‘profound malaise common to aging nations,’ as Jacob Burckhardt said….
It is when society is in decline that universal religion finds its most fertile soil. One may ask today: in the decline of western society, do we hold hope for universal libertarianism to spring forth, or will it be some other – perhaps destructive – universal religion that takes root?
Or, if we are shown extreme mercy, a return to our Christian roots and traditions?