A Liberal is Like a Christian, Only Worse
Perhaps I should begin with the idea that Christianity is the most important revolution in human history, and that Paul is its most important revolutionary. This is a consistent subtext of the book -- that Christianity initiated a turn in history that is still very much in progress (indeed it is progress). In Raccoon parlance, I would say that it is an extension the previous cosmic revolutions of existence, life, and mind, for it is the vertical prolongation of mind into spirit and God.
Which leads to one of my own conclusions, that some of the most important blessings Christ brought into the world are unappreciated and even unseen because they are so ubiquitous. So much of the context of our (western) world was only made possible by Christianity, and yet, because it is in the background, we don't notice it. One of these, of course, is "the individual." But with the individual comes freedom, equality, rights, dignity, consent to rule, civil society, the marketplace, and on and on.
Another critical point is that these blessings were and are very slow to come into being. It is not as if they occurred overnight; although the yeast came into the world some 2000 years ago, the bread is still rising.
Thus, it has been a gradual process of applying the moral intuitions and insights provoked by the Christian -- especially Pauline -- message. For when Paul says that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, nor male or female, this is every bit as world-shattering as contemporary revolutionaries who insist, say, that in leftism sex is just a human construct, so if you're a man you can shower in the girls locker room if you like.
In fact -- strange as it seems -- this left wing perversion of Christianity is unthinkable in the absence of Christianity, because it is just an inversion and prolongation of its egalitarian message. It has been clear to me for a long time that leftist moral appeals are rooted in a perversion of Christianity, but this book provides the full story (even if unwittingly) of how this came about.
For example, the last four months of police-bashing by the left would have no traction at all if it didn't appeal to some distorted sense of Christian morality. For if police are racists for whom it is open season on blacks, then it is as moral to kill them as it would have been for Jews to kill Nazis. A Marxist such as deBlasio is like a Christian, only worse (but from his perspective, better). Ideas and rhetoric have consequences.
Jimmy Carter too is like a Christian, only worse. Sultan Knish: "Carter couldn’t save the Soviet Union, but he did his best to save Castro, visiting Fidel and Raul in Cuba where the second worst president in American history described his meeting with Castro as a greeting among 'old friends.'” In turn, "Raul Castro called Carter 'the best of all U.S. presidents.'"
Castro is a revolutionary, as is Obama. In fact, Obama is our first revolutionary president, the first president who has overtly attempted to undo our original revolution, which was really the political application of the Pauline revolution (although I suppose that Wilson was a pre-Obama). Siedentop asks the question, "Was Paul the greatest revolutionary in human history?" You could say that the book is one extended and thoroughly documented Yes.
"Through its emphasis on human equality, the New Testament stands out against the primary thrust of the ancient world, with its dominant assumption of 'natural' inequality. Indeed, the atmosphere of the New Testament is one of exhilarating detachment from the unthinking constraints of inherited social roles. Hence Paul's frequent references to 'Christian liberty'" (emphasis mine).
This essential liberty is prior to our existence, and is the ground of being: it is "pre-social," and comes "to serve as a criterion of legitimate social organization." Therefore, anything that attacks or undermines it becomes false by logical entailment. If liberty is axiomatic, it is like dynamite at the foundation of tyranny, oppression, inherited privilege, etc. It may take centuries to blow apart the structure of lies, but blow it will. For "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
Beneath this cosmic subversion is "the invention of the individual, the introduction of a primary social role" which begins "to undercut the radical differences of status and treatment" of existing societies. This revolution "sent Europe along a road which no human society had previously followed," for from the perspective of the old orders, this dangerous message of liberty would have been regarded as the essence of dis-order and societal chaos. Which it still is by the left, hence their attempt to re-exert control from the top-down.
But once the ball began rolling and the yeast rising, it was very difficult to arrest. "Under way was nothing less than a reconstruction of the self, along lines more consistent with Christian moral intuitions." For if Christ is truth, then those many pretenders to truth are rendered transparently false. Every emperor is suddenly seen as more or less naked (an insight which, ironically, eventually came back to bite the church). Along these lines, Siedentop quotes the historian Guizot:
"With the church originated a great fact, the separation of spiritual and temporal power. This separation is the source of liberty and conscience," for it "is based upon the idea that physical force has neither right nor influence over souls, over conviction, over truth. It flows from the distinction established between the world of thought and the world of action, between the world of the internal and that of external facts."
Which leads to one of our most cherished pet ideas, that the leading edge of cosmic evolution is into and over this subjective horizon, into the cosmic interior. Among other things, Christ shows us the way into this interior, or rather, he is the interior made exterior, or word made flesh.