Via TWiR I found Shylock Holmes’ excellent précis of Theodore Parker’s life and works.
If you enjoyed Holmes’ excavations into the murky origins of the progressives’ “arc of the moral universe” cliché, you must find time to read W.E. Channing’s sermon Unitarian Christianity (1819). It is an excellent encapsulation of the intellectual and theological errors of liberal Christianity (sic) and Channing’s conclusion demonstrates with unusual clarity how abruptly bad soteriology leads to the absurdities of Whig history.
On the other hand, I’m inclined to agree with the anonymous commenter who oh-so diplomatically notes, over on Holmes’ Parker post, that “[Moldbug’s] understanding of Church history has many lacunae”. In fact, let us word this a little more strongly: as intellectual history, the great merit of Moldbug’s Puritan Hypothesis is that it serves as a coordination point for philosemites who would rather not talk about some (((other))) unitarian sect and papists who would rather not talk about heretics in
pretty dresses albs.
In particular, the hypothesis ignores:
- that American Unitarianism was imported into Boston from Britain and was only very indirectly linked to indigenous New England Calvinism;
- that Anglican Unitarianism itself grew out of Arminianism, which was rejected by the Dutch Calvinists at Dort in 1619 and was rejected with great violence by the English Calvinists shortly thereafter;
- that the stereotype of “Puritan missionary fervor” which Moldbug triumphantly links to America’s fervor for imposing its principles on its satellites is, in any case, grounded in the missionary activities of conservative Calvinists who rejected Parker and Channing;
- that the PA Quakers, not the MA Congregationalists, are to blame for most of the progressive themes in early US history, including universal suffrage, democracy, (hypocritical) pacifism, disestablishment of state churches, and abolitionism;
- that the disestablishment of state churches did not undermine a de facto policy of Protestantism, and general cultural unity, until the establishment of urban immigrant enclaves;
- and that the ethnic composition of Harvard in the last fifty years has had some intriguing religious dimensions, but not with respect to infiltration by the Eternal Calvinist.
The genesis of leftism truly is fascinating, but it’s almost impossible to study the history of ideas from an ideological perspective: I mean, to study it in order to advance the goals of a 21st-century ideology, be it left-wing or right-wing. You will not be able to enter into any of the details of our ancestors’ debates if you do not care about the issues animating them, and in the end you will fall back on that Manichaean worldview the Left loves (“these people advanced the progressive cause, those people fought against it”).