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One of the most brilliant American theologians of our day is Princeton’s Elaine Pagels, known for her fascinating work on ancient Gnostic texts, among other things. In 1995, she published The Origins of Satan, a book that examines how the Dark Angel emerges in a fairly central theological role in Christianity, while his function in Judaism is at best pretty much peripheral. At the risk of simplifying a sophisticated work, the book suggests that the early Christians seized upon Satan as a means of demonizing their adversaries, particularly Jews and other Christians whose beliefs didn’t make the cut into orthodoxy, and ultimately against the Pagan Romans, whose beliefs were derided as Satanically inspired.
Utah County Republicans ended their convention on Saturday by debating Satan’s influence on illegal immigrants.
The group was unable to take official action because not enough members stuck around long enough to vote, despite the pleadings of party officials. The convention was held at Canyon View Junior High School. Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan’s minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty.
In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants “hate American people” and “are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won’t do.” Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to “destroy Christian America” and replace it with “a godless new world order—and that is not extremism, that is fact,” Larsen said.
At the end of his speech, Larsen began to cry, saying illegal immigrants were trying to bring about the destruction of the U.S. “by self invasion.” Republican officials then allowed speakers to defend and refute the resolution. One speaker, who was identified as “Joe,” said illegal immigrants were Marxist and under the influence of the devil. Another, who declined to give her name to the Daily Herald, said illegal immigrants should not be allowed because “they are not going to become Republicans and stop flying the flag upside down . . . If they want to be Americans, they should learn to speak English and fly their flag like we do.”
So there you have it, the core complaint: they’re not going to become Republicans. Well, the Republican Party once entertained high hopes for Hispanic immigrants, who do by and large have very conservative social and political values. But the truth is that the Republican Party has never been the party of the immigrants and with demonization now in full swing that is unlikely to change.
Around the time of the party’s founding, immigration was at least as prominent a political issue as it is today, and Abraham Lincoln, as the party’s standard bearer, was steadily pressured to make anti-immigration policy a party cornerstone. Lincoln refused. In his view, the hysterical opposition to immigration was centered in xenophobia and pettiness. The leaders of the anti-immigrant movement of the time were called the Know-Nothings, and this is what Lincoln had to say about them:
I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? . . . Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
The Know-Nothings are making a strong comeback in Utah, where the party has taken the name “Republicans,” and Satan is emerging as their patron saint.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Rank of Italy, Argentina, and Libya in annual per capita pasta consumption:
A barn owl in Wiltshire failed to deliver two wedding rings and instead fell asleep in church.
In the United States, legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act was advanced by the House Ways and Means Committee after 18 hours of deliberation, during which time the Republican members of Congress passed around candy.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."