…is an urban legend.
Just for the sake of clarity, Alinsky was not a “quasi-satanist”. He was an old school Comsymp lefty rabble rouser. His dedication of Rules for Radicals to Lucifer was as much “satanism” as eating devil’s food cake is a blasphemous sacrament offered to the prince of darkness. He was an atheist who liked sticking it to the man and who naturally sided with rebels in any fight. Lucifer is the biggest rebel of them all, so he offered a tongue in cheek encomium to Old Scratch. The urban legend that he was a serious devil worshipper is pure pseudoknowledge.
Not that this justified his all-American Lefty consequentialism, of course. Like all Commies (and most Americans), he believed in doing evil for a good end. But I think this particularly lurid myth just muddies the waters. Indeed, Alinsky had a long friendship and correspondence with Jacques Maritain, one of the better Catholic writers of the 20th century and they were genuinely fond of each other. I sometimes like to hold out hope that he was saved through the prayers of this good Catholic man he liked so well.
If you are interested in learning about the actual human being Alinsky as distinct from the demonic bogeyman of the Hannitized mind, you can find a nice review of The Philosopher and the Provocateur. The Correspondence of Jacques Maritain and Saul Alinsky over at the New Oxford Review (scroll down). Here’s a taste:
Life, of course, takes us beyond our great causes and the pranks that tighten their load. The most poignant exchanges between these friends come when each faces the death of a beloved wife. Helene Alinsky dies in an act of heroism: She drowns while saving her daughter and a playmate from one of Lake Michigan’s treacherous undertows. Maritain writes his shattered friend: “Saul, she died in love and by love.” Raissa Maritain, left aphasic by a stroke, dies imprisoned by silence. Intimate with grief, Alinsky writes of his wish to “reach out with my heart and hands of love and devotion and abject misery because of your suffering.” Though Alinsky never came to share Maritain’s Catholic faith, he grasped its terms: that we will be led where we do not want to go.
A second lesson is that the work of justice, whether Christian or humanist, is carried on in the shadow of the eternal. Alinsky wrests this truth from the agony of Helene’s death. He confides that “once you accept your death, then you are suddenly free to live…emancipated from the shackles of values and fears of the world about us.” He could admit this openly to the friend who had said, and meant, of Helene that, “She is your guide and teacher forever. She sees God….”
A final lesson comes with our listening in, as it were, to Maritain and Alinsky struggling with the question of means and ends. They are in fundamental agreement, especially in practice. Yet Alinsky is nervous about principles and insistent on the texture of particular circumstances. Maritain, in contrast, wants the moral principles clearly articulated. Nothing, he reminds us, justifies torture — or indiscriminate bombing.
Ironic, ain’t it, that the Hannitized Mind is now fully in Alinsky’s court vs. pantywaist Catholics like Maritain when it comes to torture and indiscriminate bombing when the ends seem to justify the means? His legacy lives on in not only on the Left, but in the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism as well.
Alinsky was a minor footnote to American history until, about 3 years ago, he suddenly became useful as a cudgel for beating Obama and was elevated to Satanic Mastermind status by people who somehow manage to persuade themselves that Obama is, all at once, a godless atheist Commie with nothing but contempt for the supernatural, a devout Muslim, *and* a covert devil worshipper. Can’t the man’s policies be bad enough without this sort of absurd piling on?