From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Extremist Files” brief on Samuel Eckardsly

(This story was written in response to the prompt:  ”Sam was a rude and closed minded individual, often times blurting out racist remarks in disgust of all people, though he was quite a filthy fellow himself” by Johnny Munney)

 From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Extremist Files” brief on Samuel Eckardsly

Summary:

Samuel Eckardsly is an ordained Southern Baptist Minister and Cultural Historian with an M.A. from Columbia, who is well regarded in white supremacist circles for his calls for a “Vigorous Defense of Western Civilization” in academic and scholarly settings. While he denies being racially motivated, his speeches and his books, most particularly “Cultural Decadence and Sublimated Civilization,” are often seen as providing cover for groups that espouse Christian Identity and forums such as Stormfront. While his work acknowledges the value of other cultures in the abstract, it claims that there is a “direct, vital, and tangible” superiority to western values, which are in danger on the world stage, and that these must be “sublimated to in order to be participated in.”

Quotes:

“You can only believe in what you surrender to. Everything else is for show.” – “Cultural Decadence and Sublimated Civilization,” page 21

“Civilization requires a common direction. Without it, you have decadence at best, barbarism at worst, and always some kind of perversion. The goals of a civilization need not be moral, often are not, but mankind does not advance through moral acts (though it is at its best when it does).  It advances through vision: cultural evolution is a spear in flight, and it must be aimed. Decadence is throwing paint at a wall and hoping it turns into art. Barbarism is throwing blood on a wall for reasons of superstition. Now, tell me the truth: which sounds most like the West: in the heyday of the Roman period? The Enlightenment? The Industrial Revolution? And which sounds most like our civilization today? Our existence as a common enemy makes our foes strong, while our refusal to defend what we have done and the values behind it, is a kind of suicide pact made by a society where ‘individualism’ and ‘diversity’ have come to be seen as such virtues that the very act of sublimating oneself to a larger purpose – the first and fundamental act of any culture and civilization – is viewed with scorn by an decadent elite who would rather be clever than right.” – Speech to the H.L. Mencken Club, 2012

“You cannot enforce politeness, decency, or any virtue beyond the martial through force or oppression. You can only do it by presenting a case so charismatic that these graces are surrendered to. That surrender is the essence of civilization, those who will not surrender will always be outsiders, and often enemies” – “Cultural Decadence and Sublimated Civilization,” page 58

Background:

Born 1951 Kentucky, Eckardsly came to study the clash of cultures he saw first hand during his childhood: miners against owners, old Appalachian families against newcomers, and in particular the rise of the civil rights movement and its impact on disrupting established order and creating what he later termed a “higher order culture clash.”

While acknowledging that any individual cause may be just (he has come out, for example, in favor of the Civil Rights Act and the expansion of voting rights to all people), he came to believe that “progress is never one-sided. While any given act of reform may be legitimate, there is an accompanying cost to the lager social order – and the capacity of a civilization to extend itself – that must be considered.”

Studying at Columbia in 1969, the first member of his family to go to college, and the first in several generations to live out of Kentucky, Eckardly came to believe that there must be a way to quantify the overall health of a culture, and its capacity to absorb reforms, changes, and new ideas. This was the subject of his highly controversial Master’s thesis, in which he argued that by using what he has since come to admit is a “flawed formula,” he could quantitatively rank the quality of cultures, placing Northern European Protestantism at the top, and aboriginal tribal cultures at the bottom.

Though he has since repudiated this specific work, his formulas and publication are repeatedly cited by contemporary hate groups as “hard evidence” of racial superiority.

In the 1980s, Eckardsly returned to graduate school, this time the seminary to become an ordained Protestant minister. Describing himself as “an academic who found God, rather than a preacher turning to academia,” he says that this “leap of faith” was necessary because “reason itself, though blessed, has clear limits.  It only functions effectively as a tool in the service of higher goals, which are not reducible to it. Attempting to reason first principles into existence is a gesture of both futility and moral bankruptcy, and the beginning of a pernicious self-worship. A proclamation that all virtue must begin and end in our capacity to master it, rather than to pursue it.”

His theories on the necessity of sublimation – surrender – to a culture date from this time, and are modeled after the Christian notion that a “surrender to God” is required for true faith.

“The idea that a culture can exist on the basis of self-interest, rather than internalized standards and values is what has lead us to our current state of moral decay,” he noted in his 2003 book “Cultural Decadence and Sublimated Civilization,” which is in part a response to the 9/11 attacks. “A culture can only be as strong as the surrender it inspires.”

While Eckardsly has on several occasions emphasized that a surrender-to-culture must be voluntary, a result of being “in awe of and inspired by” the culture’s values, his use of the term “surrender,” along with his contention that such conventions as “freedom of expression” and “human rights” are uniquely western, and in particular Judeo-Christian, has again provided justification and legitimation for violent hate crimes.

Over the last 10 years, Eckardsly has again devoted himself to attempting to quantify the relative health of a civilization and decadence or barbarism of a culture. To that end he has been attempting to measure the corrosive impact of recent decisions like the loosening of immigration restrictions, the legalization of gay marriage, and the pervasiveness of reality television.

According to his theories, there should be a direct correlation between events that cross or question a civilization’s foundational pillars and that civilization’s ability to sustain itself. However, by his own admission (to Der Spiegel, in 2015) he has yet to see clear, academically rigorous, evidence of it.

“It defies the imagination that a culture can internalize that which hates it, can disturb its own foundations, can lose its believe in itself, and not transform into a swamp of its own excessing, a burial site for its noblest intentions and a breeding ground for whatever comes next,” he said. “However, in all candidness, I have yet to find a clear measure of such events. It is as though, in defiance of all logic, a masquerade is as good as a police force, and a few well-meaning acts of kindness each day are all that is needed to keep a civilization from collapsing.”

He added “But of course this is nonsense. I shall always keep looking.”

Like this?  Benjamin’s collection of short fiction “A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City” is available.

“Benjamin Wachs reveals a distinctive and highly personal flair for storytelling that will engage the reader’s total and rapt attention throughout.” – The Midwest Book Review