In 2007, Harvard University Press published a remarkable book by Yale professor Bruce Ackerman, The Failure of the Founding Fathers (hereafter Failure). Best I remember, I read the book because I was startled by the sacrilegiousness of the title: Ackerman was violating the cultural canons mandating unqualified awe of the Founders and Framers by suggesting that, in writing the Constitution, they had failed in some way. (To say that the Framers failed because they compromised with the slave States to get the Constitution ratified is a truism. Ackerman had something else in mind, however.) He convinced me, though I persist in believing that the “perfect storm” of synergistic malfunctions that very nearly deadlocked the election of 1800, and that almost led to the dissolution of the Union
In a couple of instances over the years – like here and here – I have alluded to Mark Twain’s possibly apocryphal statement that, while history does not repeat, it often rhymes. Upon re-reading my two “Skeptic’s” columns on the Protestant Reformation, I realize now that I could have added a third instance of history rhyming. For the Reformation was about 500 years ahead of its time in anticipating some of the most crucial principles of postmodernist nihilism. In fact, conservative Protestantism may be understood as postmodernism born out of due season. In particular, strictly as a representative sample, consider the following motifs of conservative Protestantism, each of which has its counterpart in the ideology of postmodernism:
o “Democratization” of interpretation and exegesis
Does anyone besides me remember Marshall McLuhan?
Like a lot of other people, I was drawn to McLuhan and his writings, beginning as a college sophomore in the late 60s and continuing into graduate school in the early 70s. When I was an undergraduate, everyone and their dog was reading Understanding Media. So, at first just to follow campus fashion, I bought the paperback edition of the book and began reading. I was captivated from the first paragraph of the first page. In fact, one of my most vivid memories of that time is of being in my room in my parents’ house and being totally engrossed in Understanding Media while a violent Kansas thunderstorm raged outside. I vaguely remember the air-raid sirens howling holy Hell, warning of an approaching tornado . But I did not come fully aw