Paleo Spear-Dane

In a recent letter to the editor of a far away newspaper, Nick Gier wrote, “Wilson claims that he is not a neo-Confederate, but . . .”

Since we are dealing with refried charges, let me serve up a helping of refried answers to charges. Here is what I said about the charge of neo-Confederacy in my talk on Dabney at the last history conference.

“The bad news for you all is that I am not a neo-Confederate. Despite the best efforts of lots and lots of people, the truth remains, whole and entire. I am not a neo-Confederate. Have I mentioned recently that neither my wife nor I are neo-Confederates?

But lest I leave the protesters outside disconsolate, there is good news for them, news that might possibly justify all that blind zeal. If you insist on using a phrase with Confederate in it, it could be fair to say that I am a paleo-Confederate—so long as you also called me a paleo-conservative, a paleo-Constantinian, a paleo-medievalist, and a paleo-Calvinist. I say this even while knowing that there are aspects of all these paleo-non-utopias that were every bit as atrocious as certain elements in the ante bellum South. Nevertheless, as far as American history is concerned, I have certain definite views about the development and deterioration of the Christian faith on these shores, the history of the U.S. Constitution, and how all that relates to the peculiar challenges we as American Christians confront today. So if you wanted to summarize those particular American views, go ahead, use the tag paleo-Confederate.

But this brings us to the bad news again, at least for our protesters. In order to find out what paleo-Confederate means, you might have to read a book or something. I suggest beginning with Christianity and Culture by T.S. Eliot. But before checking it out, you do have to be assured of one thing—checking it out is most necessary. All the natural conclusions to which moderns are tempted to leap on such matters are almost entirely wrong. We are talking about things concerning which modern education has left you woefully unprepared—and it shows.”

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