Email this link to a friend HOME : THEORY BEYOND THE CODES
Printer Friendly Version Theory Beyond the Codes: tbc030
Date Published: 12/6/2011
Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors


The Politics of American God-Talk, 2010-2012: Government as Sacrament, Government as Sacrilege

Dion Dennis

Introduction: As the long-term reality of early 21st Century U.S. decline -- decline economic, ideological and geopolitical -- sinks into a traumatized American sensibility, "God-Talk" has come to frame competing narratives of blame and redemption. In the unfolding 2012 election cycle, "God-Talk" continues to anchor zealous claims over the illegitimacy and/or legitimacy of a range of regulative and shepherding functions of the Obama-led state. For example, in contesting legislated priorities such as the Affordable Health Care Act, consider the recent claims of Republitarian/Christian Reconstructionist [1] candidate Sharron Angle [2], who nearly won a U.S. Senate seat in Nevada, despite running a sour, inept campaign against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

And these programs that you mentioned -- that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that's really what's happening in this country ... a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We're suppose to depend on God for our protection and our provision and our daily bread, not our government ... Our founders warned against this ... Once [people] get the ability to vote themselves entitlements from the largess of the government, liberty is done; freedom is over with ... We are there. We're right on the cusp of it ... That's the war we're in ... a war of thoughts and faith. And we need people to really stand for faith and trust, not hope and change.[3]

I've also been endorsed by a PAC [Political Action Committee] out of Washington D.C., and the name of that PAC is "Government is not God (GINGPAC)." [4]

And this use of this rhetorical dyad (which consists of a profound distrust of government paired with the claim that only Evangelical Christians should exercise governmental power) remains prominent on the current Republican political stage. Expressions of this world-view are overtly or covertly proffered in the 2012 contest for the Republican nomination for U.S. President. For example, U.S. Republican Representative Michelle Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry have unequivocally embraced the ideologies, policies and politics of Christian Dominionism, while the late 2011 leader in the polls, Newt Gingrich, uses proxies to express strong support for key ideological components of Dominionism. [5] In the context of public events, these two components are awkwardly fused with a perception of the nation-state and its ideology of American Exceptionalism in crisis. For example, consider the themes that framed a late summer 2010 national event, the widely viewed "Restoring Honor" rally. Held at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington D.C., on August 28, 2010 (forty-seven years, to the day, after Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, on the same grounds), this "Restoring Honor" event was spearheaded by the amped-up pronouncements of a then broadly admired American, emotive former FoxNews opinionator Glenn Beck. [6]

Because unedited transcripts of Beck's presentations usually don't read well, due to their surface conceptual incoherence and their brute emotive force, what follows below is a filtered, reassembled mélange of high-octane "God Talk" prescriptions and themes that Beck offers, as standard fare. In particular, Beck made much of a newly formed "Black Robed Brigade" or "Black Robed Regiment," hearkening back to the role of politicized, insurrectionist preachers in Revolutionary America. [7]

We all know that the Country is in trouble. We may disagree on how to solve it, but we all know the Country is in trouble ... There is no way to solve these ... issues ... there's nothing that we can do to solve the problems ... and keep the peace unless we solve it through God or unless we solve it by being our highest self ... [8] "Laus Deo: Praise Be To God" is at the top of the Washington Monument ... Where are the Lincolns, the Washingtons, of today? They are among us. Unless we teach our children, unless we challenge ourselves, we will not grow the next Abraham Lincoln, the next George Washington. Faith, Hope, Charity: [9] begin to pledge today to restore Honor ...

The storm coming is a global storm: we must go to God's Boot Camp to guide the world to safety. We pledge to ourselves our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. Be on God's side ... Two hundred and forty years ago, there was "The Black Robed Regiment" in America. England hated these preachers. When the British came, if you were a preacher, you were most likely to be killed. [Those] Preachers said, "All men are created equal; rights come from God, not a King."

... After two hundred and forty years of being asleep, the Black Robed Regiment is back today ... It is time to start the heart of this nation again. Put it where it belongs: our [American] heart with God. Stand with God. Those here and watching on TV represent 180 million people. [10]

However, in this charged economic and political environment, "God-Talk" does not exclusively reside in the narrative arsenals of Republitarians and their theocratic brethren. The God-centric discourses of Beck's "8/28" event clearly drew a powerful set of reactions, ranging from admiration to a sense of violation from early 21st Century liberals/progressives. For example, consider the response of Obama ally, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who was then deep in the midst of a successful 2010 re-election campaign. In a local talk radio interview, four days after Beck's event, Patrick was asked about his sense of the "Restoring Honor" rally, both in its attempted co-optation of Martin Luther King's 1963 political message, and in terms of the ways in which Beck's event invoked both King's legacy, directly, and the call to Divine values that framed both the King and Beck events of 08/28:

Patrick: The "I Have A Dream" speech probably was one of the most seminal sources of inspiration for me as I was ... eight years old, in my whole life, so for me that's sacred ground, a sacred moment ... I will tell you this: I think that the notion of coming back to transcendent values is a powerful one. I think that there were an awful lot of people there, at Beck's rally, who, from snippets that you hear in the quotes and so forth, on the news, were talking about that ... those values are important. [11]

A more explicit God-evoking counter-discourse came on the same day, from a close Patrick ally, who used the occasion, forty miles away, in the context of a State University convocation speech, to affirm a twenty-first century version of The Social Gospel. The speech remixed themes drawn equally from Walter Rauscenbusch's Progressivist 1917 work, "A Theology for the Social Gospel," with motifs from a Progressive-era initiative (one which postulated an activist role for higher education, in service of the Progressive state), "The Wisconsin Idea."[12]

Who are we serving? Who are we leaving behind? How far should our reach extend in living our ethic of service? How do we demonstrate that we care about our colleagues, fellow citizens and our global community? ... .

We are all here for a Higher Purpose. Our motto clearly spells that out. The expectations there are upon each and every one of us: "Not to be Ministered by to Minister." We know these words, we hear them often ... Many of us recognize that their origin is found in Scripture ... and we heed the message ...

Their words are about the connectedness of humanity, about how, when we strip away everything else ... what makes us uniquely human is the bond between the one and the many ... Coupled with those words in Scripture is a declaration of the highest calling of our existence [which] is ... to give our lives as ransom for many. [13]

Across the broad rhetorical commonalities (articulated by Beck and Obama-proxies) of Service, Hope, Faith, the Bible and God are arrays of exchanges about what constitutes the Sacred and Profane in the public sphere, tied to appropriate prescriptions and proscriptions for (or against) governmental action (or even governmental existence). These prescriptions and proscriptions are proffered in an environment of escalating debt, demographic transition, escalating anger and generalized anxiety, amid Boomer generational aging, decline and persistence. This essay tries to answer, at least in part, the following questions, cutting through the surface ideological talk: When Beck, Angle, Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann and others derisively label the legislative agenda and the ideology of the Obama-led state as "Progressivism," how does it come be characterized as if the work of a de facto Demiurge, a Manichean projection of a false God, masquerading as the True God? [14] Alternatively, how is it that Obama and his institutional and ideological allies invoke God and Scripture when they claim their work to be "righteous," as an expression of "The Social Gospel," the truest and best manifestation of God's Will? How do we usefully understand this current iteration of dueling claims that "God is on Our Side?" Below, we sketch out some conceptual tools:

Textual Politics as 1980s Precursor:

In a 1984 law review article, "The Constitution as Scripture," Thomas C. Grey framed the [then] political and cultural debates between mid-20th Century liberal proponents of the idea of the U.S. Constitution as a "living text" and the Reagan-era counter-claims for the primacy of "strict constructionist" or "originalist" readings of the foundational document. [15] For Grey, elements of these debates resembled a five hundred year-old clash between Protestants and Catholics. In the quote below, he begins by discussing the role of the U.S. Constitution, as the venerated foundational object of American civil religion. He then sketches out the key elements of the contest between the institutional and collectivist authority of the Sixteenth Century Catholic Church and the emphatic Lutheran/Calvinist rejection of all non-Biblical sources of revelation:

The maxim vox populi, vox Dei hints at the analogy between Bible and Constitution ... Americans take the will of the people as sovereign ... and the Constitution [its] most [legitimate] expression ... Beyond that, Americans have [always] regarded the ... Constitution as a sacred symbol ... of the nation itself ...

The scriptural analogue to constitutional textualism is the Protestant doctrine that the Bible is the sole vehicle of divine revelation (sola scriptura) ... [summarized as:] "The BIBLE, I say, the BIBLE only, is the religion of Protestants." The doctrine directly attacked ... the Church hierarchy of priests and bishops ... that found no direct ... sanction in scripture.

Luther regarded the Bible not only as the sole source of the divine word ... but that [it] spoke directly to the believer, requiring no authoritative [institutional] interpretation . [Sola fide]; justification [was] by faith alone ... [Its basic] message was simple and clear ... [16]

Applied to the U.S. Constitutional textual wars of the 1980s, Grey labels the position that gave equal status to the making of Constitutional case law by the Supreme Court as a "Catholic" interpretative position (upholding the equality of extra-textual decision-making by the still recent Warren Court-era cohort, and the equal legitimacy of the institution of the Court to the written Constitution). Grey dubbed the opposing position a "Protestant" interpretative frame. This position asserted that the meaning of the Constitution was delimited and authoritative, and the Court had no right to posit its own decisions and textual productions, or assert its institutional claims, as equal to the sacred text of the Constitution. [17]

Transposed onto the American legitimacy contests of the early 21st Century, Grey's typology is useful as one of several tools for understanding current and intense conflicts over the legitimate scope of governmental functions. Or, put another way: Are the policies of a Progressive state, which assumes a moral and economic pastorate via a technocratic and compliance-based shepherding of citizens, an expression of the sacred? Or are they a grievous sacrilege (which is the claim of Perry, Bachmann, and a slew of religious and economic conservatives)? First, a brief look at the idea of government as sacrament: There are myriad pro-institutional "Catholic" positions, which prescribe and legitimate a broader mandate for institutions and the regulatory powers of the state, in one or more of these ways. In one frame, the activist state is a theocratic expression of God's will and/or Jesus' ministry of healing (in a revival of the early 20th Century Progressive-era post-millennial theocratic credo of The Social Gospel).[18] And/or alternatively, there is a secular version that views the regulatory state as an expression of the good. This version foregrounds utilitarian and social defense justifications. It buttresses the prerogatives of neo-Polizeiwissenschaft institutional risk managers, intensive data collectors and data miners, those tweakers of the micro-details of the social and economic system, who busily constitute and reconstitute an economic pastorate of all and each, in the name of productivity, preemption and security. [19] Obviously, the work of the theocrat and the technocrat have been fused in the past, and certainly in elements of the present, by those who were (or are) theologically predisposed liberal social activists, and whose activism is also an expression of an equally strong faith in the applied social sciences. For example, in the early 20th Century, at the height of the U.S. Progressive movement, some Christian Progressives had both theological and technocratic sensibilities. Then (and as at times now) the über rationale was post-Millenarian, summarized in the pithy dicta of a doctrinal father of the late 19th Century ideology of The Social Gospel, Rauschenbusch: "Work in this world to establish a Kingdom of God with social justice for all," which is a social activist tweaking of The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:10): "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." [20]

Alternatively, there are diverse "Protestant" positions that reject these broader claims for institutions and practices of governance. Objectors and objections may, in the Republitarian vein, routinely recapitulate elements of the Gilded Age, such as the 19th Century credo of "The Gospel of the Market" (citing some contemporary version "natural law," Social Darwinism and/or the primacy of individual sovereignty). Alternatively, toward the edge of political viability are the ideological children of R.J. Rushdoony, such as GINGPAC, who view technocratic and compliance-based governmental shepherding, in almost all realms, as inherently evil, a fundamental heresy, a violation of the prescriptive economic and familial norms of the Old and New Testaments. These norms are currently active in the campaign rhetoric and political alliances of Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich. [21]

In the remixed politics of the 21st Century, these twin textual interpretative strategies, "the Catholic" and "the Protestant," for "reading" the Constitution no longer solely stand as a veiled proxy for the legitimacy of governmental institutions and practices, as they did in the 1980s. With ballooning fiscal and economic debt (and reduced resources), an aging populace, sagging infrastructure and a long-term series of structural crises, fiercely emotive "Catholic" and "Protestant" notions of the appropriate role (and zones) for federal regulatory institutions and functions can be understood as harbingers of a proximate legitimation crisis. At the center of the conflict are contests over what Foucault has described as the relationship between "political reason and pastoral power," to be judged by American voters, during the 2012 election cycle. Working from the Fall 2010 forward in time, we find the "Catholic" position, defenders of the institutions and practices of the neo-Progressive Obama-led Federal state, tied, more-often-than-not, to passionate pronouncements of the credo of "The Social Gospel," framed by this de facto dictum: "I'm from the Government and I'm here to help." (Such proponents are frequently allied with less theocratically-motivated stakeholders of the state's regulatory and redistributive activities, such as Boomer-era public sector unions, and Boomer-led Medicare and Social Security constituencies). And, of course, it is a firm axiom of faith that God is on their side, the side that promotes one version of social righteousness, best expressed in the initiatives of the Progressive state.

But as Beck's "8/28" rally demonstrated, there are many in the "Protestant" position's camp, determined to "shrink the state," either in the name of increasing liberty and/or in compelling adherence to the stern principles of a New American theocracy constituted on Old Testament principles. Toward these sometimes disparate ends, the intermediate goal of "shrinking the state" unites a complex set of constituencies: Libertarians, Republitarians, corporatist economic conservatives, neo-Right Christians and Christian Reconstructionists, assembled in an emotive but potentially (over the longer term) unstable alliance between theocratic and atheocratic activists who are waging war against their common enemy: The current forms of technocratic Christian Progressivist governmental shepherding, in matters from health care to the environment, particularly at the Federal level. Immanent to the conflict is one unshakable element: Real and sustained low-intensity conflict over the legitimate scope of "the shepherd-function" in the Obama-led state. And it is to this, an analysis of the Shepherd-function, in the second decade of the 21st Century, that we now turn.

Remixing/Contesting the Shepherd: Tea Party Republitarians/Christian Reconstructionists/versus Democrats/Neo-Christian Progressives

If a key contest of the 2012 political season is the shape and scope of state-based control (and the role of "God Talk" in defining the limits for the exercise of such controls), Michel Foucault's historical insights are of considerable heuristic use. In Omnes et singulatim: toward a critique of political reason, Foucault traces, across millennia, from the Egyptians through Christianity to the late 18th Century German Cameralists, iterations of a master trope of governance -- the Shepherd.[22] Foucault maps the complex changes, as the trope and associated practices are employed to buttress religious (and later, secular) governance. In the recent and upcoming political season in the U.S., powerful and competing spins on the trope of the Shepherd have been articulated, from GINGPAC-supported 2010 Nevada Senatorial candidate Angle to neo-Christian Progressives, such as Obama, Deval Patrick and their allies. Below is a recapitulation/paraphrase of some of Foucault's main points, followed by some discussion of Cameralist and neo-Cameralist iterations, drawn from my 2006 CTHEORY essay, Policing the Convergence between Virtual and Material Worlds. Following all this will be a taxonomy charting the roles of the shepherd and the state with the politics of American "God Talk," in the 2010-2012 period.

Iteration One: Hebraic Elements of "The Shepherd:"

  1. The Shepherd wields power over a flock rather than a land. The Shepherd-God relationship with his flock is ontologically and politically constitutive;
  2. The Shepherd assembles, guides and leads his flock. Without him, they are anomic individuals. In essence, no Shepherd, no collective identity; no flock;
  3. The Shepherd's role is to ensure the salvation of the flock, not just during "states of emergency," but in an individualized and continuous manner. This includes what Foucault describes as "the final kindness." In essence, the Shepherd "has a plan," a beneficent target destination or outcome for his flock;
  4. The Shepherd is ceaselessly devoted. All that the Shepherd thinks about and does is for the good of the flock. As Foucault says, "When they sleep, he keeps watch." He knows, in a continuous way, all and each (a notion reflected in the Latin title, "All and Each," of the Foucault lectures).

Iteration Two: The Christian Remix of the Hebraic Shepherd

  1. In the Christian remix, the Shepherd is not only responsible for the destiny of all of the flock and each of the sheep. The Shepherd is also a micro-accountant of the soul, cranking out comprehensive moral assessments of every action of each proverbial sheep, in both actual and probabilistic terms. About this, Foucault says, "Not only [a narrative] of each sheep ... [but also] all of the good or evil [that] they are liable to do ... " The Shepherd is fully implicated both in the sins and virtues of the flock. The Shepherd's destiny is tied to the details of what each does, or does not do;
  2. On obedience: In the Old Testament, the flock is obedient to God's (the Shepherd's] law, God's Will. For Christianity, the bond is not to the Shepherd's Law, but in a personal surrender/submission to the Shepherd. Obedience/Submission becomes ontological, an end state, a permanent condition;
  3. Christianity develops this notion of individualized knowledge of the flock, on the part of pastors, in three ways:

    First, the Shepherd is authorized to know about the mundane needs of each sheep. If an individual's or family's day-to-day ability to self-provide is compromised, the Shepherd must fill that gap, and deliver the needed goods or services (Charity as care taking);

    Secondly, the Shepherd must know what each member of the flock is doing (a catalog of their visible, public sins);

    Three, the Shepherd must continuously survey the inner life ("the soul") of each of the flock, cataloging stealth sins, charting the soul's journey toward Heaven or Hell.

  4. The invention of Christian Technologies of the Self, by which Foucault meant formal and institutionalized routines of "examination, confession, guidance, obedience, that have a primary aim: to get individuals to work at their own 'mortification,'" by which Foucault meant specific Christian forms of self-renunciation, in this world. [23]

Iterations Three and Four : 18th Century Polizeiwissenschaft/ 21st Century Neo-Polizeiwissenschaft

With the birth of nation-states in early modernity, the art and rationalities of governance moved away from discourses based on theocratic or natural law. Raison d 'etat emerged as the framework for Polizeiwissenschaft theory. And what is Polizeiwissenschaft theory? It is a technocratic-moral, state-centric political theory, where the state takes a detailed interest in "all-and-each" of its populace, to increase both the state's viability and the well-being of the population. In Policing the Convergence, I quoted Colin Gordon's summation:

Life is the object of police: the indispensable, the useful, and the superfluous ... Police 'sees to living;' 'the objects which it embraces are in some sense indefinite ... [The task of] calculating detailed action appropriate to an infinity of unforeseeable and contingent circumstances is met by [the desire to create] an exhaustive detailed knowledge of reality... [that extends from cataloging the behavior of masses to the micro-details of an individual's life]. . Police is a science of endless lists and classifications ... a knowledge of inexhaustibly detailed and continuous control ... a kind of economic pastorate of men and things ... where the population is likened to a herd and flock ... [24]

And David Burchell put it this way:

[The goals of] police administration in Germany [were also] ... aimed at [producing] a concerted ethical and spiritual reformation of the population, as well as of its manners and outward demeanor. Social discipline aimed to instill a new "attitude", a new style of ethical comportment ...'"by a closer connection between the moral realm and the life-style of the population" ... inculcat[ing] social virtues. All of this is recognizable in the prescriptions of the Cameralist Polizeiwissenschaft theorists ... [25]

In the center of this state-centered pastoral ethos, Foucault cited Von Justi's formulation, a critical one, for Polizeiwissenschaft theory: The state must paradoxically increase its own strength while keeping the citizenry happy, developing both the state's strength and the quality of individual lives, simultaneously. For 18th Century Polizeiwissenschaft theorists, the problems were dual: There was a moral problematic, which consisted of inculcating the appropriate behavior and attitudes toward docility, productivity, sacrifice and social cohesion. And there was the technocratic problematic, consisting of the ramping up the state's ability to intensify data collection, interpretation and application (for purposes of strengthening the state) to the populace. In Policing the Convergence, particularly in the details of an Appendix in that article, I argued that we have found ourselves in a similar moment, a neo-Polizeiwissenschaft moment. [26] It is a moment where data collection and data mining, pouring in from the communication and recording instruments of everyday life, and linked in diverse networks, form a booming "Internet of Things," an endless stream of coded and networked knowledge about the mundane. It is also a time, as the Krokers, Pfohl and others have noted where "God Talk" is often front-and-center, in the U.S. [27] This contemporary convergence has now revived, among other things, a particular iteration of 18th Century moral-technocratic Cameralist dreams about knowing and shaping the details of everyday life, via data-driven interventions, intensified surveillance and moral instruction, aligned with the goals of Obama-style statecraft, from detailed assessment protocols to moralistic calls for service. In essence, the present moment of Obama-led governance, however ephemeral or durable, with its neo-Progressive techno-moralist dreams, arguably, resemble von Justi's über-goals for Cameralism: Increasing the power of the state, making it more economically competitive and socially cohesive, while satisfying and inculcating the populace, as part of a global network of capital and communication flows. A networked, globally-aware and self-defined multi-cultural technocracy fused with a remixed Christian Progressive-era sensibility, in the midst of a neoliberal world order, is characteristics of this current and unstable, moment of U.S. governance. [28]

Just as early 20th Century Progressives had a strong faith in both the initial iteration of The Social Gospel and applied social science, today's Obama-led iteration combines an equally strong faith in a close iteration of The Social Gospel with the cybernetic techniques of optimization, surveillance and control (such as "continuous assessment, training and retraining") so presciently described by Deleuze in his Postscript to Societies of Control. [29] As a totality, one way opponents might look at this reconfiguration is this: It is as if Bentham's utilitarian legitimation principle for the Panopticon, Bentham's rationale for total observation, classification and visibility had been replaced by a new iteration of The Social Gospel. For political opponents, their nightmare is the Progressivist/Social Gospel moral imperative -- Government as God's redistributive instrumentality, busy collecting data continuously on the Flock. It is the combination of the moral imperative with technocratic practices of digital and continuous social sorting and shepherding, which have become quasi-infinite in the realm of the virtual, and no longer confined, as Deleuze and Delanda have noted, to enclosures or a single eye. [30] Given that intensive moral and social observation are meant to be complementary and comprehensive forms of Shepherding, the fusion of the two (the morality of The Social Gospel and Secular Practices of a standards-based Digital Shepherding) has come to seem, then, to the political opposition, like a totalization of the Shepherd-function, attempting to colonize all activities of All-and-Each, in environments without walls. This is a plausible explanation of how the Sharron Angles, Michelle Bachmanns, Rick Perrys and Newt Gringrichs view the current regime, as a totalizing regime of moral and technocratic surveillance and control, under the aegis of the state. In the meantime, beginning with "Virtual Alabama," launched during the George W. Bush years, eight Southern states, including Texas, began to ramp up an Enterprise version of Google Earth, in public-private partnerships, to systematically and intensively map and track everything in a given state, share the data liberally, and tie it together in a Virtual USA project. This neo-Cameralist initiative, with its goal of exhaustive and continuous mapping of everything, and making such information available via Augmented Reality, by Southern "Red" states, paradoxically created little political notice and even less protest. [31] That particular inconsistency, the development of a totalizing 3-D information base by his state, under his watch, did not inhibit Rick Perry's expression of outrage, in Fed Up:

We are fed up with being overtaxed and overregulated. We are tired of being told how much salt we can put on our food ... [or] what windows we can buy for our house ... what kind of prayers we are allowed to say and where we can say them ... what kind of energy we can use ... what kind of doctor we can see ...

We are fed up with a federal government that has the arrogance to preach to us about how to live our lives ... We are fed up because deep down we know how great America has always been ... and how great the nation can be in the future if government will just get out of the way. [32]

The valence of such statements, in the context of a Presidential nomination contest, rests on several levels: There are valences that reflect durable sentiments, and valences that speak to consistency of policy and/or action along those sentiments. For example: If these statements had come from Republitarian candidate Representative Ron Paul, they would be reflective of his long and consistent history of "hard," even draconian and frightening libertarian policy prescriptions, coupled with his typical withering criticism of a broad range of government actions and policies.

On the other hand, the text of "Fed Up" is from Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich (as the author of the book's forward). The rhetoric doesn't square well with either the recent history of pre- GW Bush-era and GW Bush-era Republican governance (which includes centralized compliance initiatives such as the infamous 2001 "No Child Left Behind" legislation, the 2003 prescription drug benefit in Medicare, The Patriot Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the ubiquity of a broad-based wiretapping program, the abortive "Total Information Awareness" initiative, etc.). Perry and Gingrich were participants, even advocates, for expanded and sometimes controversial governmental programs, during some portion of this 1992-2008 period. Given such histories, how to explain the obvious disconnect? Former Bush speech writer David Frum (inventor of the phrase, "Axis of Evil") offers up one explanation, in a November 2011 piece, "When Did the GOP Lose Touch with Reality?," in New York Magazine:

In the aughts, Republicans held ... power for longer than at any time since the twenties, yet the result was the weakest and least broadly shared expansion since World War II, followed by an economic crash and prolonged slump ... Imagine yourself a rank-and-file Republican in 2009: If you have not lost your job or your home, your savings have been sliced and your children cannot find work ... retirement prospects dimmed ... Your neighbors blame you ... You know that ... none of this is your fault ... And when the new President fails to deliver ... what relief ... [just] blame ... Obama ...

The Bush years cannot be repudiated, but the memory of them can be discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideolog[ies] ... There are good reasons to fear that the ebbing of Republican radicalism remains far off ... [because of] Fiscal Austerity and Economic Stagnation ... Ethnic Competition ... Fox News and Talk Radio ... The conservative shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology has ominous real-world consequences ... [33]

Whether or not we find Frum's "A Republican Through the Looking Glass" explanation convincing, what is clear is that in this radically transformed nationscape, relatively traditional exercises of governmental power breeds, in an environment of decline, resentment and perceived instability, radicalized and emotive resistance. Resistance is baked into any exercise of power, as Foucault showed us. In this case, resistance grows among economically downwardly mobile portions of the U.S. population (those who have lost their jobs, pensions and/or homes since the financialization debacle of 2007-08). Those folks aren't happy. They are, as Rick Perry shrewdly knows, "fed up." (Recall Von Justi's governmental maxim). In this environment, any measures that strengthen the state without an apparent and concurrent increase in happiness (sans "states of emergency" and other forms of survivalist discourse) will run into significant resistance, if the inverse of von Justi's maxim is correct. Arguably, significant portions of the nation are indeed angry. Consider these snapshots, from a punchy September 2, 2010 piece in Time, titled "How Obama Became Mr. Unpopular:"

Julie Griffin, who voted for Obama ... sat down ... well dressed and discouraged. After 23 years as a payroll administrator ... [in Elkhart, Indiana], she [was] laid off 18 months ago. "Really, what has he been doing?" she said when I asked about Obama's efforts to help people like her. "I guess I don't know what he is doing" ... .

Across the ... floor, Joe Donnelly, Elkhart's pro-life, pro-gun Democratic Congressman, worked the crowd. He was part of the moderate wave that won Congress ... in '06 ... re-elected with 67% of the vote ... in '08 ... Donnelly is nonetheless fighting for his political life. In a recent television ad, an unflattering photo of Obama and Pelosi flashes while Donnelly condemns "the Washington crowd." This is ... a Democratic campaign slogan now: Don't blame me for Obama and Pelosi. "I'm not one of them," Donnelly [said] ... "I'm one of us." [34]

When there's a political platform, such as Obama's current neo-Christian Progressivism, that's a recognizable ideological and policy fusion of theological and technocratic forms of shepherding, any perceived failing in one realm (in this case the social and economic) may well amplify discontent, distrust or rejection of the other form (ideologically and theological). Hence it's not surprising to read, in this article, such statements as the following:

A sense of disappointment, bordering on betrayal [grows] across the country ... [or] ... Many of the same groups Obama turned out for the first time in record numbers had suffered the most from the recession and were the most likely to tune politics out ... [35]

And, as the Time article points out, if distrust of government (as a successful manager of social problems) is a defining feature of the Zeitgeist, offering more government as the solution will be a difficult proposition to sell. So, the main point is this: If the Time article is an accurate and sober barometer of this time and place, Obama's brand of technocratic, neo-Progressive "Social Gospel" shepherding is clearly in the midst of a legitimacy crisis. The outcome of the Fall 2010 elections, shifted an overwhelming majority of state governorships, as well as the U.S. House of Representatives, to Tea Party Republicans and their allies. This class of freshmen Congressmen and Governors has radically reshaped intra-Republican sensibilities, tactics, agendas and governance practices. Their repudiation of a variety of norms is another clear sign of a legitimacy crisis, as is continued economic instability on national and global levels. Yet the trope of the Shepherd is a complex, enduring and apparently, a necessary one, in U.S. social and political life, given the relative and prominent weight of influence of religiosity in the U.S. [36] And, in that realm, an unstable but broadly recognizable mix of Shepherds litter the political and ideological field. Surveying that field, some key questions are these: Which parties consider governmental shepherding to be sacramental? And, conversely which parties view governmental shepherding to be a sacrilege? (And if they see such activities as a sacrilege, which orientation shapes this view?) Below is a summary developed as a partial and provisional response to these heuristic questions, a synthesis of elements of the previous arguments.

A Partial Taxonomy: Remixing God, the Shepherd and the State, 2010-12:

"Catholic" Shepherds

Institutions and Practices of Government as a Sacrament

1. General Characterization:

Neo-Christian Technocratic Progressives, often beneficiaries of the mid-20th Century state, the gifted and ambitious legacy children of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" initiatives;

2. Philosophy of Governance:

God's Will Works Through the State: Rightly used (and expanded), the state and its technocracy are expressions of God's will, which is to promote redistribution of benefits and harms, freedoms and regulation, where they are unevenly distributed in populations. Defined as Social Justice, such activities are a necessary precondition for the return of the Messiah. (An alternative view sees the legitimacy of the State as an expression of God's will, without the eschatology).

3. Legitimate Shepherd Functions:

a. The State: Data-driven, digitally enabled state apparatuses, regulating /surveying/shepherding larger portions of U.S. social, political, cultural and economic life in this global moment. Attempts at comprehensive shepherding of the secular and the sacred are ideologically justified by a belief in social science and a specific, sometimes post-Millennial reading of the Bible. Such ambitious and broad shepherding of the virtual and material, which also includes state-sponsored and monitored volunteering and educational and extra-educationally based service activities, can be understood as a moral exhortation of the populace, in the neo-Polizeiwissenschaft mode.

Example: Barack Obama, Deval Patrick


"Protestant Shepherds"

Government as Sacrilege (against the Natural Order)

1. General Characterization:

a. Intense Ancestor Worship of idealized Founding Fathers.

b. The religion of "the Market," and its de facto sanctified icons, Private Property and Individual Sovereignty. And if there's a God[dess], her name might well be Ayn Rand. Strong proponent of limited government, often arguing that "Statism" is a precursor for either Socialism or Fascism, and a blasphemy on the natural order of freedom and prosperity. Arguably, it's a mix of a late 18th Century ontology of "the autonomous individual," a religion of the market, with a relatively rigid and sometimes cartoonish set of variations of Adam Smith's and Ricardo's work.

a. The State: Republitarians argue that the state's shepherding role is far too large and destructive. They would abolish, among other things, the following: The PATRIOT act, the War on Drugs, the NSA's Warrantless Wiretapping Surveillance Program, Medicare, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Affairs, Commerce and Education as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities.

b. Legitimate Shepherding Functions: "Strict Constructionist" interpretation of the Constitution and the First Ten Amendments. It's unclear whether Republitarians would attempt to repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments (abolishing slavery and the establishment of the "due process and equal protection" clauses ). The notion of wholesale shepherding and governance is largely severed. That which governs best governs least. However, shifting shepherding functions to private, faith-based organizations is facilitated (a practice which also has a home, remixed, in neo-Progressive Social Gospel administrations).

Examples: Foundational and prominent figures include Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Ron Paul, Dick Armey, Rick Perry, and the late Senator Barry Goldwater. Groups (and associated ideological Think Tanks) are not infrequently funded and shaped by wealthy corporate interests (such as the Koch Brothers' organization, "Americans for Prosperity.")


Reconstruction-ists and allies

"Protestant Shepherds" where the authoritative text for Shepherding is The Bible.

Government as Sacrilege against God.

General Characterization:

1. Often espousing Enlightenment era conceptions of autonomy and personal liberty, the covert central idea of Christian Reconstructionists is Theonomy (supplanting the U.S. Constitution as the sacred text). Theocrat in nature, theonomy tosses out centuries of democratic governance with its claim that Biblical Law is the one true legal framework for both civil and criminal matters, and forms the only legitimate basis for governance. Dominionists are active historical revisionists, vis-à-vis the Founding Fathers and the Constitution.

In terms of government, hard-core theonomists declaim that the U.S. is a Christian nation, advocating the dismantling of democracy, the dismantling of most recognizable governmental function, the reinstallation of quasi-tribal theocracies, with prescriptions and proscriptions consistent (such as stoning) with Biblical law. Essentially, this is a withdrawal from contemporary life. Their most successful initiative is a strong home-schooling movement.

Foundational Figure: R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North. Affliated: Pat Robertson -- Current active political figures in contests: Michelle Bachmann, Jim DeMint and (in contradictory ways, Rick Perry).

From November 2010 to 2012:

The Huffington Post, reporting on a mid-September, 2010 "Values Voters Summit," noted a strident schism characterizing the ideological atmosphere surrounding the event. The message of key and formative Tea Party allies and organizers, such as former Texas Congressman Dick Armey and Ryan Hecker, remained inclusive: Those arguably successful initial organizers, working toward an electoral plurality, emphasized unity on the common issues (shrinking the government, policy reform on the economy) amidst a diversity of positions on more contentious social issues. One Republican who took himself out of the Presidential nomination contest, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (perhaps de facto representing the positions of two Republican candidates, Mormons Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman), called for "a truce on social issues" in favor of maintaining a working coalition on fiscal policies and the scope of governmental functions. [37]

In contrast, influential Republican Senator Jim DeMint publicly scorned Daniels' call for ideological tolerance and civility on contentious social issues. DeMint proposed an ideological "litmus text" for Republitarians, promising to "straighten out" misguided, atheocratic Republitarians, as he spoke against a background of "Amens" at the Summit:

I hear regularly, as I travel around this country, someone will tell me, 'I'm a fiscal conservative, but not a social conservative.' I want to straighten him out a little bit this morning, because the fact is, you cannot be a real fiscal conservative if you do not understand the value of a culture that's based on values ... When you have a big government, you're going to have a little God ... You're going to have fewer values and morals, and you're going to have a culture that has to be controlled by the government. But when you have a big God, you're going to have a responsible and capable people with character to control themselves and lead their own lives. And you can't have a little God that promotes freedom and allows people to keep more of their own money, and a government that's not bankrupt. A government that's not bankrupt. We're talking about fiscal issues ... [38]

For DeMint, fiscal warriors must be cultural warriors. A polite disagreement on contested social issues won't do. Obviously, DeMint's idea of the Shepherd is not the neo-Polizeiwissenschaft of neo-Christian Progressives. Here is DeMint's general equation, offered as a rhetorical axiom: Big Government = Immorality/Amorality. Or, we can view it this way: Godlessness = Fiscal Bankruptcy = Nation-State Decay = Death, personal and collective. Personal salvation, social order, fiscal responsibility and presumably, eternal life, are to be found in the guidance of the true Shepherd, which is and will always remain extra-governmental. DeMint's Shepherd is presumably a fusion of Hebraic and Christian shepherd, as delineated in the first two tables, derived from Foucault's taxonomy. Ergo, for DeMint, like Rick Perry and his allies, the idea of government apparatchiks engaged in pro-social engineering is inherently a Manichean project. Following this logic, those that falsely identify the state's apparatus as an instrument of God are immoral idolaters. From here, it's just a short step to the kinds of violent, ugly and racist vilifications of Obama, as the Devil, that have been so diligently excavated and explored in a recent CTHEORY piece. [39]

But DeMint's gesture can be unpacked along an intersecting vector. DeMint is a member of what is arguably a powerful and elitist Christian fundamentalist sect in the U.S., known as "The Fellowship" or "The Family." While it is beyond the scope of this article to extensively characterize this group, Jeff Sharlett, an ex-junior member of this astonishing pervasive sect (across the globe), who wrote the premier exposé on their structure, ideology and network, described them, in an interview, this way:

What's really disturbing [is] the agenda that they're pursuing ... international affairs, foreign affairs and a kind of approach to economics they call "biblical capitalism," an extreme deregulation, laissez-faire. They take the invisible hand very literally ... The Family began as this domestic organization way back in the 1930s, a union-busting organization ... it's part of that invisible hand of the market. They believe that organized labor is ungodly, to put it mildly ... literally a Satanic conspiracy that they had to fight back [40].

What was the political utility of the conflation of the "Invisible Hand" with a purified God concept, at this "Values Voters" summit? What constituency would be amenable to such a fusion? Arguably, DeMint's rhetorical moves can be seen as appealing to two prominent strands of contemporary Protestant Evangelism, in his audience: The Word of Faith Movement (sometimes abbreviated to just Faith) and its doctrinal cousin, Prosperity Theology. The controversial tenets of one of its leading televangelists, Kenneth Copeland, are adequately summarized by this excerpt from a Wikipedia article on the subject:

Word of Faith teaching holds that God wants his people to be financially prosperous, as well as have good health, good marriages and relationships, and to live generally prosperous lives. [It] teaches that God empowers his people (blesses them) to achieve the promises that are contained in the Bible. Because of this, suffering does not come from God, but rather, from Satan. As Copeland's ministry has stated, the idea that God uses suffering for our benefit is considered to be "a deception of Satan and absolutely opposed to the Word of God." Additionally, if someone is not experiencing prosperity, it is because they have given Satan authority over their lives. God is not able to do anything at all unless the person invites Him to.[41]

Plausibly, many of the "Value Voters" in DeMint's audience avidly adhere to such media evangelists as Copeland and Benny Hinn, famous proponents of this doctrine. DeMint replicates their cultural presupposition that suffering and want come not primarily from "outside," but from the "inside," from the sinfulness of the Self. Poverty is a result of a personal decision to give one's life over to Satan, by refusing God. And, of course, in this narrative, ameliorative action to reduce suffering is God's function. It is not the work of government, and for government to do so violates the moral order of the Universe. For the "Invisible Hand" is God's Hand, if one is Saved. The back side of the invisible hand is Satan's influence, if one is not Saved. Ergo, privation and want is the result of an alliance with Satan (rather than the result of sophisticated manipulations and lobbying of the wealthy and powerful to marginalize and control the poor). In this frame, government intervention is akin to Satanic impulse, a perversion. On its face, then, this is a theological doctrine that fits quite nicely with the current neoliberal order and its insistence on the individual providing for their own security, material and spiritual, while shrinking the state. In that way, it's an early twenty-first century remix on Weber's early twentieth century observation of the relationship between religion and economics in the U.S. [42]

And, then there's Beck: Cut from the media stable at Fox Networks at the end of June, 2011, Glenn Beck is attempting to straddle these worlds by a soft-focus on values and fusing the theocratic and civic into a politically malleable two-pronged religion. In the fuzzy rhetoric of his keynote address, Beck was essentially fusing the theocratic sensibilities of the Christian Reconstructionist wing of the Republican Party with the quasi-religion of the Republitarian wing -- the ancestor worship of the Founding Fathers. Along the way, by holding his "Restoring Honor" rally on the day of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream Speech," Beck was working to reappropriate the meaning of the late Dr. King, stripping King's legacy of the idea of "The Social Gospel," and Progressivism, and the perceived evils stemming from the early 20 Century Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, as well as the Rooseveltian legacies of Theodore and Franklin. Basically, Beck remixes the Founding Fathers, theocracy and Martin Luther King, Jr., in his quest to "Restore Honor." The political impetus of this August 28, 2010 "Restoring Honor" rally can be translated as the moral imperative to shrink government, an attempted sacred meta-language meant to fuse elements that would not otherwise cohere. Beck's shepherding of the anti-Obama elements of the Right seems to have faltered, as his media star continues to fade. But this general theme has been taken up, with great gusto, in turn, by Bachmann, then Perry and then Gingrich.


This piece is taxonomic, a piece of social cartography. It is interpretative and descriptive, not predictive. One thing is clear: Americans love to say that "God is on Our Side," whether God works mysteriously through his chosen institutions, such as His Blessed Governmental Apparatuses, or whether Ancestor Worship is the de facto object of civil religion, as is the case for Republitarians. [43] Further down the rhetorical road, a proponent of "Big God, Little Government" shepherding, Jim DeMint, and crypto-Dominionists allies eschew the notion of any positive link between Government and God, declaiming that Shepherding belongs to God alone, and not a governmental entity masquerading as God. Meanwhile, the country keeps sinking, no matter which God is apparently invoked. Writing the last lines of this piece, I kept hearing a faint but iterating slice of Joan Osborne's voice, singing Eric Bazilian's lyrics, in "One of Us." "What if God was one of us," she intones ... "Just a stranger on the bus ... tryin' to make his way home." [44] Indeed.



[1] A Republitarian is a Libertarian Republican or a Liberty Republican. Here's a good general summation:

They are strong believers in the traditional Republican principle of economic libertarianism ... Libertarian Republicans do not necessarily share the same political beliefs across the spectrum ... However ... most share [a passion for] fiscal conservatism-- advocating for lower taxes at every level of government, [reduced federal spending], easing ... federal regulations on business interests, reform[ation] of the entitlement system, and ending or making significant cuts to the welfare state."

"Libertarian Republicans," Wikipedia, (accessed on 30 September 2010).

A formal platform statement, replete with prescriptions and proscriptions, is available from the Republican Libertarian Caucus.

Position Statement, As adopted by the General Membership of the Republican Liberty Caucus at its Biannual Meeting held 8 December 2000, The Republican Liberty Caucus, (accessed 30 September 2010).

[2] As Julie Ingersoll noted in a post on Religion Dispatches, Angle was once a member of the Independent American Party, the Nevada branch of the Constitution Party. The Constitution Party (which still exists) is an expression of Christian Reconstructionism, which rejects such U.S. staples as separation of Church and State, and advocates the dismantling of the regulative functions of the Federal Government, repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, repeal of Social Security, and so forth.

Julie Ingersoll, "The Radical Background of Harry Reid's GOP Opponent" (15 June 2010) in Religious Dispatches, 2804/the_radical_background_of_harry_reid%E2%80%99s_gop_opponent (accessed 30 September 2010).

Parenthetically, the "pure" Republitarian version of this position on entitlements (without the Christian Reconstructionist element) was well articulated by failed but noisy 2010 Alaska Republican Senatorial candidate, Joe Miller's assertion (contrary to settled case law) that unemployment benefits, Medicare and Social Security are "unconstitutional" and should be eliminated.

Amanda Terkel, "Joe Miller Says That Unemployment Benefits Are Unconstitutional, Struggles To Say How He Would Deal With Poverty," The Huffington Post (19 September 2010), (accessed 30 September 2010).

[3] Note that Angle was directly challenging two of the successful tropes of the 2008 Presidential campaign. "Hope" was a direct political referent to the power of the much discussed and circulated Shepard Fairey poster of Obama. "Change" was a referent to both Obama's slogan, "Change You Can Believe In" and the equally amorphous "Yes We Can," used by Obama and Obama's political allies, such as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, in Patrick's successful 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

[4] John Ralston, "Ralston's Flash: Angle: "'What's happening (in America) a violation of the 1st Commandment,' entitlements "make government our God,'" The Las Vegas Sun, (4 August 2010), (accessed 1 October 2010).

Rick Wiles, interviewing Sharron Angle, on TruNews Christian Radio, (21 April 2010), mp3 file, 100421_Angle_On_TruNews_Entitlements_And_Idoloatry.mp3 (accessed 1 October 2010).

For more information on the Political Action Committee, Government is Not God," or GINGPAC, see this: GINGPAC, "About GINGPAC." (accessed 1 October 2010).

[5] For a discussion of Michelle Bachmann's decades-long ties with Christian Dominionism, see "Leap of Faith: The making of a Republican front-runner," in The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza, 16 August, 2011, (accessed 22 September 2011).

For a discussion of Rick Perry's disturbing ties with a Dominionist network, the New Apostolic Reformation, see "Rick Perry's Army of God," in the Texas Observer, Forrest Wilder, 03 August 2011, (accessed 22 September 2011).

For views of Gingrich's attitudes, this video features the Chairman of the Gingrich created advocacy group, "Renewing American Leadership," Rev. James Garlow, explaining the "Seven Mountains of Dominionism:" (accessed 25 November 2011).

[6] Regina A. Corso, "Oprah Regains her Position as America's Favorite Television Personality: Glenn Beck debuts at number 2," The Harris Poll #10, Harris Interactive (25 January 2010) Harris_Interactive_Poll_Entertainment_TV_Oprah_2010_01.pdf (accessed 1 October 2010).

Secondly, consider the results of this late 2010 Gallup Poll that found Beck to be, at that time, the eighth most admired person in the U.S., See the "Most Admired Man and Woman, 2010." (accessed 21 September 2011).

As for Beck's political leanings, one key plank has been the demonization and destruction of Wilsonian and (Theodore & Franklin D) Rooseveltian "Progressivism," as a philosophy and as a practice of government. Shrinking government to the point of "drowning it in a bathtub" (as Grover Norquist puts it) is a goal shared by most Republitarians.

Wikipedia, Grover Norquist. (accessed 1 October 2010).

For a bit more coherent (than is normative with Beck) ramble through Beckian-endorsed rhetoric on the subject of Progressivism, see this article, on Beck's website:

R.J. Pestritto, "American Progressivism," (17 April 2010) (accessed 1 October 2010).

[7] See Beck's own narrative on the formation of this Neo Black Robed Regiment, see the following link (transcript and video):

Media Matters TV, "Beck discusses formation of his Black Robe Regiment: 'We are all going to lose our religious freedom if we don't stand:

The Glenn Beck Program" (30 August 2010), (accessed 1 October 2010)

Also, this group now has a web site: (accessed 25 November 2011).

A discussion of the Black Robed Regiment vis-á-vis Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally is here: Wikipedia, "Black Robed Regiment," (accessed 1 October 2010).

More on the Revisionist historian David Barton, a primary influence on Beck, can be found here:

Julie Ingersoll, "Beck's Dream -- Our Nightmare," Religious Dispatches (25 August 2010), beck%E2%80%99s_%E2%80%9Cdream%E2%80%9D%E2%80%94our_nightmare (accessed 1 0ctober 2010).

[8] Beck's comments on FoxNews Sunday, 29 August 2010, a day after the "Restoring Honor" rally, excerpted here: Josh Buice, "Glenn Beck and the Polytheistic god of Americanized Politics," Delivered by Grace (30 August 2010), (accessed 1 October 2010).

[9], I Corinthians 13, King James version of the Bible, (accessed on 1 October 2010).

[10] A transcript, a bit rough, of the event is available here: Charlie Shipp and Lynnette Shipp, "New Media Message as delivered by Glenn Beck," Rush Echo, (30 August 2010) (accessed 1 October 2010).

The event is viewable, in its entirety, here: CSPAN Video Library, 28 August 2010, (accessed 1 October 2010).

[11] "Ask the Governor, Part Two, 9/1/2010" The Jim and Margery Show, FM 96.9. The text was transcribed from a mp3 of an interview on 96.9, "Boston Talks," the Jim and Margery Show. (accessed 1 October 2010).

The total clip is 21:39. Patrick's comments, as quoted on the 8/28 event are from 11:30 -- 12:40. Parenthetically, Beck's attempted co-optation of the meaning of the King speech is, arguably, to strip, ideologically, the Progressive agenda, with its roots in "The Social Gospel" [see endnote 19] from "MLK the Icon."

[12] Walter Rauschenbusch, "A Theology for the Social Gospel," (accessed 25 November 2011). For a discussion of the basics of the Social Gospel, see endnote 18.

The Wisconsin idea, as formulated by Jack Stark, of the Wisconsin Legislative Bureau, is as follows:

The Wisconsin Idea [is] the University's direct contributions to the state: to the government in the forms of serving in office, offering advice about public policy, providing information and exercising technical skill, and to the citizens in the forms of doing research directed at solving problems that are important to the state and conducting outreach activities (p. 4).

For purposes of clarification, Stark's de facto definition of the State includes all of the functions of the mid-20th Century welfare state (which is the problematized notion, in ideology and practice, across contemporary North America and Europe). Stark's piece is a history of the emergence of different strands of "The Wisconsin Idea" through the Progressive era. For more, see John Stark, "The Wisconsin Idea: The University's Service to the State," 1995-1996 Wisconsin Blue Book, Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, (accessed 26 November 2011).

[13] Dana Mohler-Faria, President of Bridgewater State University (2002-current). Mohler-Faria also served, in the Governor's office, as Patrick's education adviser on the reformulation of education policy and issues in the Commonwealth, for the first eighteen months of the Patrick Administration (2007-2008). He continues to be influential, despite turning down Patrick's offer to become the Commonwealth's Secretary of Education.

These remarks are excerpted between the 7:00-9:00 minute markers. See BSU, Opening Day, 2010, 09/01/2010 (accessed 26 November 2011).

Parenthetically, as if to underscore the close confluence between Patrick and Mohler-Faria (as paired Obama-proxies), after Patrick had finished his radio remarks, he joined Mohler-Faria at Bridgewater State, reiterating many of the same themes, albeit in a different key, from 2:20-5:26. Convocation -- Patrick, 09/01/2010: (accessed 26 November 2011).

[14] Pestritto, ibid.

[15] Thomas C. Grey, "The Constitution as Scripture," 37 Stan. L. Rev. 1, November 1984 (accessed via LEXIS/NEXIS 1 October 2010). The kinds of tensions Grey discussed had a notable expression a few years later, in 1987, at the Senate confirmation hearings for Robert Bork, a prominent proponent of a Protestant textual position, "originalism," a term with even broader meaning in the current theo-political context.

[16] ibid, Grey.

[17] The popular sentiment, and political appointment and election of judges, in the 1980s and 1990s swung toward the "Protestant" position, as legislative bodies on the state and federal level enacted laws, such as "determinate sentencing" models, that significantly reduced the discretionary decision-making of judges, as it increased the discretion (and political clout) of prosecutors. Additionally, in weighing whether Grey's frame is still useful, consider how well Grey's categories track onto recent claims made by Texas Governor Rick Perry, in his late 2010 book, Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America for Washington. (New York, Little, Brown and Company). In the heart of the book, on pages 97 and 98, Perry makes the case in his own words, and then turns to Robert Bork's A Country I Do Not Recognize, to hammer home, politically, the very distinctions that Grey makes, in heated political rhetoric:

Traditional values are being jettisoned and self-government steadily whittled away ... The complaint here is not that old virtues are eroding ... What is objectionable is that ... a natural evolution of the moral balance is blocked ... by judicial decree ... This was described by Justice Antonin Scalia in a dissent: "What secret knowledge, one must wonder, is breathed into a Justices of this Court, that enables them to discern that a practice which the text of the Constitution does not clearly proscribe, and which our people have regarded as constitutional for 200 years, is in fact unconstitutional? [The Supreme Court] is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize (Perry, citing Bork).

In other parts of Fed Up, such as the chapter titled "No American Left Alone: Health Care, Education, the Environment and the Tyranny of the Modern Administrative State," Perry emphatically (if simplistically) rejects the broader mandates of federal shepherding and governance that emerged in the Progressive era, with rhetoric generally similar to Robert Bork's. Everywhere, the "Catholic" position of privileged knowers is rejected. Everywhere, the "Protestant" is extolled, perhaps nowhere so fundamentally as in this sentence: "I see a world where all things that can be done by the individual are done by him and no one else" (Perry, page 173). That's a statement of the "Protestant" position, stripped to its core.

[18] The Social Gospel has been described (briefly):

As applied Christian ethics to social problems such as poverty, liquor, racial equality, slums, public hygiene, education, war,child labor women's issues, and workers' rights. Above all it opposed rampant individualism and called for the practice of religion to be socially aware. It contributed to the establishment of the modern welfare state in Europe and has been criticized for its tendency to lead to socialistic government policies and the abandonment of the churches' traditional responsibility as primary agencies of public charity.

New World Encyclopedia, "The Social Gospel," (accessed 1 October 2010).

In the U.S., the rise of The Social Gospel was a key legitimation discourse for early 20th Century Progressive-era reformers, technocratic and religious. Revived in the 1950s and 1960s, this discourse also provided powerful legitimacy claims for the mid-20th Century U.S. Civil Rights movement and its leaders, most notably Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For a longer, more comprehensive history of The Social Gospel, see the following:

Bradley S. Bateman, "The Social Gospel and the Progressive Era" at the National Humanities Center, (accessed 1 October 2010).

[19] For a discussion of the move to a neo-Polizeiwissenschaft state (intensive data collection, data mining, GPS surveillance, stealth centralization, etc.) see the following: Dion Dennis, "Policing the Convergence of Virtual and Material Worlds: The True Object of Police is Man," 1000 Days of Theory, CTHEORY, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, editors, (5 December 2006) (accessed on 1 October 2010)

[20] The post-Millenarian notion is that the world's evil has to be cleaned up by humans before Christ, as Messiah, would ever return to Earth. Wikipedia, Postmillennialism. (accessed 1 October 2010).

[21] The notion of Theonomy is at the center of the late R.J. Rushdoony's philosophy (one which contains overt racist statements, as well). Theonomy essentially demolishes the church-state separation, arguing that the state, like all other institutions, is under God, and all are to be ruled by Old and New Testament prescriptions and proscriptions. For a transcribed interview with Rushdoony, with YouTube video, explaining the basic tenets of Christian Reconstructionism, is here:

Joseph McAuliffe and R.J. Rushdoony. "An Interview with R.J. Rushdoony, conducted by Joseph McAuliffe," The Second American Revolution (accessed 1 October 2010).

See also these articles and/or videos: John Sugg, "A Nation Under God," in Mother Jones, (December 2005), (accessed 2 October 2010).

Or read/listen to Rushdoony's dicta directly: R.J. Rushdoony, "Institutes of Biblical Law: Introduction to the Law," Christ Rules: How to Live in Harmony with YHWH, (accessed 2 October 2010).

Here, Rushdoony rejects what he calls the "spiritual autism" of individualism (a characterization not likely to appeal to many Libertarians or Republitarians) as he trashes the bankruptcy of the idea of individual sovereignty, declaring that the primary purpose of humans "is to glorify God."

R.J. Rushdoony, "Spiritual Autism," The Vorthos Forum, (accessed 2 October 2010).

[22] Michel Foucault, "Omnes et singulatim: toward a critique of political reason," Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Stanford University (10 and 16 of October 1979) (accessed 2 October 2010).

[23] Foucault, paraphrased, ibid.

[24] Dennis, citing Gordon's Introduction to "The Foucault Effect," ibid.

[25] Dennis, citing David Burchell, ibid.

[26] In the Appendix to "Policing the Convergence," see the three comparative tables between 18th Century Polizeiwissenschaft and the current early 21st Century iteration: Table One, Governance Problematic; Table Two, Core Concepts and Strategies; Table Three, Preferred Strategies, Dennis, ibid.

[27] For an overview and analysis of recent forms of the odd but weighty convergences and divergences between iterations of Christianization in U.S. life and the hyper-technological, see the following: Arthur Kroker, "Born Again Ideology: Religion, Technology and Terrorism," CTHEORY Books (November 2006), (accessed 2 October 2010).

Also well worth the read, in terms of excavating the "Left Behind" eschatology, is the following: Stephen Pfohl, "Left Behind: Religion, Technology and Flight from the Flesh," CTHEORY Books (November 2006), (accessed 2 October 2010).

[28] In an interesting, if somewhat flawed article, Ivan Kenneally's 2009 article on Obama, in The New Atlantis, "Technocracy and Populism," makes this early point about Obama's orientation:

Obama's populism is about the protection of the ordinary man's participation in civic life against the extraordinary advantages of minority factions armed with superior material and political resources. However, Obama's conception of techno-politics is based on the embrace of a kind of techno-aristocracy -- hyper-educated elites with specialized politico-scientific expertise are singled out to manage the benighted rest of us. The conspicuous contradiction embedded within Obama's political program is between his populist lionization of consent and his technocratic diminution of it: the former presumes the prudence of ordinary common sense and the latter rejects the same common sense as radically unscientific ...

Kenneally goes on to equate this with a central paradox of the Enlightenment, without acknowledging that this tension between democracy and the disciplines, from the early 19th Century onward, had been discussed thirty-five years ago, by Michel Foucault, in Discipline and Punish. And while Kenneally's observation about Obama's technocratic sensibility is correct, he does not acknowledge the Christian elements of Obama's neo-Progressivism, via the doctrine of "The Social Gospel."

Kenneally, Ivan, "Technocracy and Populism, The New Atlantis (Spring 2009),, (accessed 2 October 2010).

See also this: Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, "The Obama Avatar." Theory Beyond Codes: Event Scene," CTHEORY (4 June 2010), (accessed 2 October 2010).

[29] Gilles Deleuze, 1990. "Postscript to Societies of Control," The Watson Institute, Brown University, (accessed 2 October 2010).

[30] Delanda, Manuel. War in the Age of the Intelligent Machine, New York: Swerve Editions, 1991.

[31] Torin Monahan describes "Virtual Alabama" as

a complex database replete with three-dimensional imagery of most of the state (including buildings, roadways, power plants, refineries, airports), GIS overlays for additional contextual information including building schematics, video surveillance access for all public cameras, algorithmic scenarios for likely direction of chemical fumes in case of a toxic release, and so on ... With a $150,000 license from Google, Alabama is able to "populate" the database for free by convincing local firefighters, police officers, and others to add elements to the open-source system in their spare time ...

The vision for Virtual Alabama, and for similar applications in other states, is to map everything and share data liberally. DHS envisions being able to share data regionally and nationally ... [as a form of situational awareness] including real-time GPS data on the location of state troopers, real-time readouts of [hospital beds] ... [With] perks for businesses [such as insurance companies] ...

Monahan goes on to point out how security agencies are transformed into de facto service providers (and captive consumers of hardware and software) to private corporations and interests, via how such technologies are conceptualized and commodified.

Torin Monahan, Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity (Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 2010), pps. 47-48.

See also the 2009 narrative and public relations video about Virtual Alabama, in the Official Google Enterprise Blog," (accessed 26 November 2011).

Of note, as well, is the move to incorporate these projects into a "Virtual USA" initiative, "Virtual USA," (accessed 26 November 2011).

Additionally, here is the announcement of Texas' participation in the "Virtual USA" pilot project along with that of seven other "Red" Southern states: "Homeland Security Launches Virtual USA Information Sharing Initiative," GovMonitor, 10 December 2009, (accessed 26 November 2011).

[32] Perry, ibid, pages 6-7.

[33] David Frum, "When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?" New York Magazine (20 November 2011), (accessed 26 November 2011).

[34] Michael Scherer, "How Barack Obama Became Mr. Unpopular," Time, (2 September 2010),,8599,2015629,00.html (accessed on 2 October 2010).

There's also a video report: Michael Scherer, "Why President Obama is Unpopular," Time (2 September 2010),,32068,601287676001_2015627,00.html (accessed 2 October 2010).

[35] Scherer, ibid.

[36] See Charles M. Blow's recent comments in a NY Times Opinion column, with an accompanying graphic. The "Religious Outlier" among developed countries is the U.S., according to research by Gallup. Blow says the following:

The poll underscored just how out of line we are. Gallup surveyed people in more than 100 countries in 2009 and found that religiosity was highly correlated to poverty. Richer countries in general are less religious ... But that doesn't hold true for the United States. Sixty-five percent of Americans say that religion is an important part of their daily lives. That is compared with just 30 percent of the French, 27 percent of the British and 24 percent of the Japanese ...

Charles M. Blow, "Religious Outlier," The New York Times, Opinion Section (3 September 2010), (accessed 2 October 2010).

The Gallup's summary is here: Gallup, "Religiosity Highest in World's Poorest Nations: United States is among the rich countries that buck the trend, (31 August 2010), (accessed 2 October 2010).

[37] Amanda Terkel, "Tea Party Movement Rift: Leaders Debate Whether to Push Social Issues Along with Fiscal Ones," The Huffington Post (17 September 2010), (accessed 2 October 2010).

[38] Terkel, ibid.

[39] Carolyn Erler, "The Obama Code: Ghosts and Monsters in the Visual Datasphere," CTHEORY, Resetting Theory (17 December 2009), (accessed 2 October 2010).

[40] "Jeff Sharlet on the Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," (transcript with video), interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, (12 August 2009), (accessed 26 November 2011).

An early excerpt of the themes of the book was published as an article in Harpers: Jeff Sharlett, "Jesus Plus Nothing: Undercover among America's secret theocrats," Harpers (March 2003), (accessed 26 November 2011).

Also, see the following: Jeff Sharlett, "Through a glass, darkly: How the Christian Right is reimagining U.S. history," Harpers (December 2006), (accessed 26 November 2011).

[41] Wikipedia, "Word of Faith," (accessed 26 November 2011).

[42] Max Weber and Talcott Parsons (translator). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Charleston: Createspace, 2010).

[43] The term Religiosity is used, instead of religion, because many of those who are fervently religious, in the U.S., are ignorant about the history and tenets of their own religion, as well as unable to recognize foundational figures. According to the recently released results of a Pew Survey on Religion in American, more than half of U.S. Protestants did not know who Martin Luther was, nor did they know that Luther was the prime mover of the Protestant Reformation. In fact, four groups regularly knew the most about religion: Atheists, Agnostics, Mormons and Jews.

"U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, Executive Summary," The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (28 September 2010), (accessed 2 October 2010).

[44] Lyrics Eric Balizian, original performance by Joan Osborne, released on her 1995 album "One of Us." The song's lyrics can be found at multiple sites on the web, including this one:

Eric Balizian, "One of Us," (1995),, (accessed 2 October 2010).


Dion Dennis is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Bridgewater State University (MA). He teaches courses on emerging technology, new forms of property and equally new forms of social control; neo-liberalism and 21st Century policing and corrections; and justice, media and crime. Dennis' essays have regularly appeared in CTheory. His essays and reviews have also appeared in Postmodern Culture, The Education Policy Analysis Archives, the Academic Exchange Quarterly, Rhizomes, Culture and Agriculture, Fast Capitalism, and First Monday, as well as in new and reprinted form in several print anthologies.

© CTheory. All Rights Reserved