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How Christianity Can Ride The Tiger

Here’s an interesting, if somewhat wrong, take [1] on my book The Benedict Option [2] and Archbishop Charles Chaput’s book Strangers In A Strange Land [3]. It appears in the LA Review of Books, and the author is Benjamin Teitelbaum. It begins:

An East Asian parable tells of a man who confronts a tiger in the forest. Unable to escape, and lacking the strength to subdue the animal by force, he opts for a third tactic. He leaps on its back and rides. One day the tiger would grow old, and if the man remained inconspicuous and patient, he might survive long enough to witness its decline, at which point he could grab its neck and start to squeeze.

This parable entered Western politics through the writings of Italian fascist-sympathizer and race theorist Julius Evola. The defeat of Hitler and Mussolini convinced him that nothing could stop the advance of liberal modernity — which he regarded as an anarchic scourge that sought to render natural human difference, moral truths, and tradition meaningless. He resigned himself to life in a postwar West where confrontation with progressive dogmas like equality and liberty was tantamount to political suicide. Resistance for the true anti-liberal consisted instead in secrecy and self-preservation. The tiger of modernity, he wagered, had a limited lifespan, and only those who kept themselves intact would be positioned to strike once the beast began to sigh.

Fear of chaos and of nihilism. Despondency as rallying cry. Withdrawal as political strategy. Hope only in the promise of time’s elapse. Evola would transfer these ideas to future generations, most notably to those utmost outcasts of postwar Western modernity we call white nationalists and ethnic separatists.

I offer this summary of Evola’s beliefs so that no one will be fooled into thinking that the literature coming from conservative Christian America today is especially new or distinctly Christian. I refer, first and foremost, to Strangers in a Strange Land by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput and The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative. Each of these works proceeds from the same concession: doctrinaire Christians’ struggle for the heart of America is over, and they’ve lost. According to Chaput and Dreher, secular liberalism has breached the innermost ramparts of our society, and mainstream American culture now finds itself in a loathsome state of aimlessness, in which history, place, and even our bodies mean nothing. The authors mobilize to expose this social confusion and guide Christians on a path toward spiritual and cultural survival. This path is one of entrenchment, of waiting out liberalism’s vital phase.

Yes, like the deluge, liberal secularism too shall pass, if only on “God’s time” — as Chaput puts it — rather than our own.

Well. I am grateful for the next line in the piece, which assures the reader that the Archbishop and I are not fascists. Good grief. (“Of course these God-botherers are not fascists, but boy, they sure look like fascists, don’t they?”) I can’t speak for Archbishop Chaput, of course, but I have no doubt at all that he would join me in condemning white nationalism and ethnic separatism. We are Christians, after all — and Archbishop Chaput, in fact, is a Native American.

Teitelbaum continues:

To compare Chaput and Dreher to figures like Julius Evola is not to insinuate that they are closet fascists. Rather, it is to highlight the existence of a broad anti-modernism that now encompasses diverse, even mutually irreconcilable ideologies and agendas. It is an anti-modernism that, for all its cries of feebleness, poses the most serious threat to global liberalism. Strangers in a Strange Land and The Benedict Option are expressions of this phenomenon, and they show it through the grievances they lodge, the reactions they advocate, and the changes they envision.

This is a provocative point that I will address later in this post. Now, though, I want to point out that Teitelbaum says that The Benedict Option [4] and Strangers [3] should be read together — a conclusion that I heartily endorse. He says they complement each other, because each has strengths the other lacks. And I want to point out Teitelbaum’s assessment of a keystone of Chaput’s argument:

He indicates that his concern centers not on same-sex marriage per se, but rather on what it allegedly represents and perpetuates — namely, a society in which we are no longer able to orient ourselves because one of the most fundamental features of identity, gender, has been stripped of consequence. Any notion that certain features of who we are might be givens, that we could be born into one association or social role but not others, is now anathema. This drive to extinguish collectivizing instincts and practices, Chaput claims, is the logical conclusion of a democracy that lacks principles and ideals other than the absolute sovereignty of individuals. It requires citizens to disassociate from any institution or identity that could come between themselves and the state — be it a religious organization or a family — so that they can function as independent voices in democracy’s market of opinion. Furthermore, it pursues this hyper-individualism with fanatical intolerance of dissent. (So much for the hopes of some [5] conservatives that their opposition to same-sex marriage might be permitted to live on in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges as a token of “diversity.”)

What begins as a conversation about sexuality ends with visions of a society void of structure, a nightmare of order dissolving into chaos. And that narrative, more than any uniquely Christian message, emerges as a common thread in Chaput’s and Dreher’s writing.

I agree with the Archbishop. In The Benedict Option [2], I write that same-sex marriage marks the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution, which, in philosopher Michael Hanby’s apt formulation, is the technological mindset applied to the body. The Sexual Revolution is not only a moral catastrophe, but for Christians, a metaphysical one, because it undoes the story the Bible tells us about who we are. From the book:

If sex is made holy through the marriage covenant, then sex within marriage is an icon of Christ’s relationship with His people, the church. It reveals the miraculous, life-giving power of spiritual communion, which occurs when a man and a woman—and only a man and a woman—give themselves to each other. That marriage could be unsexed is a total novelty in the Christian theological tradition.

“The significance of sexual difference has never before been contingent upon a creature’s preferences, or upon whether or not God gave it episodically to a particular creature to have certain preferences,” writes Catholic theologian Christopher Roberts. He goes on to say that for Christians, the meaning of sexuality has always depended on its relationship to the created order and to eschatology—the ultimate end of man. “As was particularly clear, perhaps for the first time in Luther, the fact of a sexually differentiated creation is reckoned to human beings as a piece of information from God about who and what it meant to be human,” writes Roberts.

Contrary to modern gender theory, the question is not Are we men or women? but How are we to be male and female together? The legitimacy of our sexual desire is limited by the givenness of nature. The facts of our biology are not incidental to our personhood. Marriage has to be sexually complementary because only the male-female pair mirrors the generativity of the divine order. “Male and female he made them,” says Genesis, revealing that complementarity is written into the nature of reality.

More:

To be modern, as we have seen, is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self- definition. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).”

Gay marriage and gender ideology signify the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because they deny Christian anthropology at its core and shatter the authority of the Bible. Rightly ordered sexuality is not at the core of Christianity, but as Rieff saw, it’s so near to the center that to lose the Bible’s clear teaching on this matter is to risk losing the fundamental integrity of the faith. This is why Christians who begin by rejecting sexual orthodoxy end either by rejecting Christianity themselves or by laying the groundwork for their children to do so.

“The death of a culture begins when its normative institutions fail to communicate ideals in ways that remain inwardly compelling,” Rieff writes. By that standard, Christianity in America is in mortal danger.

If a remnant wants to survive, it must resist the Sexual Revolution. But how?

Readers who don’t understand why Obergefell is such a big deal to traditional Christians would do well to ponder the point in this passage. Obergefell certainly does not stand alone. It is the culmination of a long journey through modernity. But it is a breaking point — and why the churches cannot compromise on the issue. I’ll write more about this in another blog post.

I bring it up here because the reader who does not grasp the argument the Archbishop and I are making may not fully grasp why sex is so important to it. It’s not that we are cranky old men. Rather, it’s that one’s morality derives from one’s metaphysics. By denying the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and marriage, we deny the traditional Christian theology of the body, and ultimately the entire thing unwinds.

Anyway, back to Teitelbaum’s essay. Here he strikes on another neuralgic point:

And the rootlessness these authors observe is not confined to the material world of bodies and localities. American thought is similarly unhinged. The core of this problem, according to Chaput, is our disinclination to treat morality as fact. You might think that the claim “All men are created equal” is not the same kind of falsifiable statement as “the temperature outside right now is 86 degrees,” but Chaput begs to differ. The former is as much of a fact as the latter, he claims, and if it is regarded as a non-fact — as an opinion — it is more easily relativized and conditionally dismissed. “Moral disagreements,” he writes, “become rationally irresolvable because no commonly held first principles exist.” Chaput thus operates with a menacing standard for success. Until our society gives moral statements — presumably those he endorses — the status of scientific fact, he will not be satisfied.

This is wrong, but not entirely wrong, and it’s unfair to Chaput’s argument. Chaput says — correctly, in my view — that without sharing fundamental moral principles, a society cannot hold together. It is true that “All men are created equal” cannot be proven in the same way that “the temperature outside is 86 degrees”; they are different kinds of truths. But a society that does not believe that “all men are created equal” is metaphysically true (that is, built into the structure of reality) is going to be a different kind of society than one that does share that belief. And a society in which its people believe radically different things about too many fundamental phenomena is not one that can hold together over time.

Alasdair MacIntyre’s argument in After Virtue — put crudely — was that modernity killed God, but failed to come up with a secular substitute, or at least one that can bind society. Teitelbaum continues:

Things needn’t have come to such a pass, of course. Both Dreher and Chaput cite the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, who foretold that the United States would need Christianity to survive democracy. If liberal democracy had an inherent drive toward radical materialism and individualism, it could be tamed by religion; de Tocqueville saw Christianity and Enlightenment values as having found an ideal balance in the early America. What threw things out of whack? Social movements like the 1960s sexual revolution, as well as technological advances that separate us from each other. That, and non-Christian immigration.

I’m not going to go looking for my copy of Chaput’s book in the piles and piles of books unsorted from our recent move, but I doubt very much that he says this. The only time immigration comes up at all in my book is a single brief mention of Catholic immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The argument in my book is far broader and deeper than Teitelbaum indicates here. The problem is not located solely in the Sexual Revolution, as even a shallow reading of The Benedict Option would indicate. The problem is modernity itself — especially the late stage that Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.”

To be fair to Teitelbaum, he does paint Chaput and me as “anti-modernists,” which I suppose is reasonably accurate for me (I’ll let the Archbishop speak for himself). But Teitelbaum’s piece does not give a sufficient sense of the argument I make. It comes across as a standard liberal reading of The Benedict Option as a simplistic reactionary tract by a guy who can’t deal with the glory of diversity and the wonders of Snapchat.

If he’s not accurate in rendering the Ben Op’s diagnosis of the source of our problem, Teitelbaum does a decent job of encapsulating my proposed solution: constructing thicker, smaller communities of the faithful, who are committed to going deeper into the Christian faith and tradition, and by so doing resisting the dissolving forces of modernity.

Teitelbaum:

Which brings us back to Evola and his latter-day followers, who likewise defend a bounded community against a totalizing liberalism deemed too strong to face head-on. We ought not get carried away with the analogy: there is little to suggest, for example, that Chaput and Dreher mean “white people” when they say the “Christian West.” Dreher has responded [6] to such accusations, asserting that the population he champions is based on spirituality and culture rather than race. But neither is his the evangelizing Christianity that proclaims itself true for all peoples in all ways and at all times, and which cannot allow itself to retreat from any arena of human society lest it betray its own destiny. Rather, his Christianity is the banner of a tribe — which may not necessarily be racialized, but which yearns for a similar sense of belonging in time and space. It is one of many tribalisms reluctant to participate in pluralistic democracy and to accept the limitations of public influence that come with it. They are the forces of disintegration reshaping our world today, striving, each in its way, to undo the project of the global community.

I appreciate very much Teitelbaum pointing out that neither the Archbishop nor I are talking about ethnicity. I take issue, though, with his characterization of my view of Christianity.

My Christianity, like the Christianity of St. Benedict, does proclaim itself as true for all peoples in all ways and at all times. But the manner of proclaiming that truth and living it out has to be somewhat different, related to time and place. The challenges of being a Christian in sixth-century Rome were different from the challenges of being a Christian in sixth-century Constantinople. The challenges of being a Christian in 1950s America were different from the challenges of being a Christian in 1950s Poland. The truth of Christianity did not change, but the way that truth was lived out certainly did. It is clear from The Benedict Option that I do not believe Christians today are at liberty to fail to evangelize. We have to evangelize. The question, is, though: How do we do that in this time and in this place? From the book:

The first Christians gained converts not because their arguments were better than those of the pagans but because people saw in them and their communities something good and beautiful—and they wanted it. This led them to the Truth.

“Apologetics then and now has a limited role,” Robert Louis Wilken, the early church historian, has said. “We must speak what is true, but finally the appeal must be made to the heart, not the mind. We’re really leading people to change their love. To love something different. Love is what draws and holds people.”

What’s more, to believe that the ultimate point of the church’s existence is to get someone to pray the sinner’s prayer, or to get baptized and/or confirmed within it, is a serious mistake. Making a decision for Christ is only the first step of the journey. What we lack today is discipleship — that is to say, the formation of faithful Christians and congregations. In our time and place, we have reduced the faith to warm, fuzzy feelings. It should not surprise us, then, that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism [7] has replaced Christianity as the de facto religion of young American Christians (and, I would say, the majority of American Christians). MTD is cheap grace, and as Bonhoeffer warned nearly a century ago, cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the Christian faith.

My argument in The Benedict Option [2] is that we Westerners live in a time and place in the nearly 2,000 year history of the Church when the faith has been scattered and radically weakened. Now is a time for gathering and storing. A Methodist pastor friend the other day suggested that I read a book called The Celtic Way Of Evangelism [8], in which the author draws on early Celtic monasticism to come up with lessons for how contemporary Christians should evangelize. The book talks about these insights from the work of sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann:

(1) A person’s view of Reality is largely shaped, and maintained, within the community into which one has been socialized.

(2) In a pluralistic society, the possibility of conversion, that is, changing the way one perceives essential Reality, is opened up through conversations with people who live with a contrasting view of Reality, and

(3) one adopts and internalizes the new world-view through re-socialization into a community sharing that new worldview

How I wish I had come across that book when I was writing The Benedict Option! I’ve not read the whole thing yet, but it sounds like the vision of the author, George G. Hunter III, really dovetails with my own. Evangelism has to be different in the 21st century West, because Christian living — which will be the most powerful form of evangelism — has to be radically different. We are living in a post-Christian world. If Christians today uncritically absorb the modern view of seeing reality — that we are autonomous conscious beings who live in a universe of dead matter, which only has meaning if we choose to give it meaning — then we will not be able to resist the collapse of the Christian faith. The Bible — the basis for the historic Christian faith — gives us a certain view of reality. It is radically (= at the root) different from the modern view.

Our failure as Christians to understand this, and to grasp its implications, leaves us vulnerable. We are like defenseless British troops trapped on Dunkirk beach. But most of us don’t get it. At all. We think we can continue to live inside the modern view of reality, and continue to adjust, to temporize, and be okay. But those days are over. 

If you want to see the end result of godless, hedonistic consumerism and hedonism, read Michel Houellebecq. The order that we take as normative could change very quickly. As the eminent historian of the early church Peter Brown has explained [9], nobody — not even the Christians of the era — understood how rapidly things were changing in the western Roman Empire of the fourth century. The Roman Empire was all they knew; neither pagans nor Christians could imagine a world without it. And then it was gone, just like that.

For Christians, the spiritual and cultural part of our own “empire” — that is, the framework  we use to understand our culture and civilization — has already collapsed. If we Christians are going to be able to see and to know the truth in this long Dark Age, we are going to have to come together and build communities — within our churches and elsewhere — capable of living out and teaching to others what is really Real.

Christianity has to return in some way to its pre-modern, patristic and medieval roots, or it will cease to exist. How Protestantism and Catholicism are to do this is not up to me to say, but rather for Protestants and Catholics, respectively. This means that they will need to first recognize that they are minorities in post-Christian America, and second to get busy being creative minorities. Orthodox Christianity, in which I believe, is fully pre-modern in its teaching and ethos. My particular task as an Orthodox Christian is to figure out a way to live it in this time and place, no matter what — and to help my Protestant and Catholic brothers and sisters when and how I can.

One final passage from Teitelbaum — and this is important:

Christian anti-modernists may be the most tragic participants in the anti-modernist cause, however. Both Chaput and Dreher would do well to ponder more deeply the charges coming from other anti-modernists that their religion is the real driver of globalist liberalism. Some contemporary ethnic separatists — like, for example, Alain de Benoist — name Christianity itself as the enemy of community, identity, and spirituality. Modern liberalism’s claim to universal validity, its disinterest in roots and history, its yearning for a hyper-individualism, its contempt for religion — all of these features are, according to such thinkers, elaborations of a Christian model whereby God’s word is the singular, ultimate, and final revelation, where the past is sin and the future is salvation, where all are deemed equal before God and the divisions humanity has erected within itself are illusions to be transcended. The seeds of public secularism, they would argue — following Nietzsche — were sown by Christianity’s totalizing teleological vision, and by Christ’s edict to render unto Caesar.

This is a critically important insight. Of course it brings to mind Ross Douthat’s well-known quip, to the effect of if you don’t like the Religious Right, wait till you see the Post-Religious Right. Many on the Alt-Right really are hostile to Christianity. Richard Spencer once told me that he hated Christianity, and was a follower of Nietzsche. As I’ve written here before [10], I have anecdotal reports from Christians in high school that alt-right white nationalism is starting to appeal to young white Christian males. As a reader who attends such a high school wrote to me a while back:

Milo isn’t getting conservative ideas out there in a subversive label that’s appealing to Millenials. He’s a prophet of the deeply un-conservative alt-right. He’s not creating a climate that’s accepting of conservative ideals. He’s creating one that specifically rejects those values as hallmarks of a system that they view as a failure through not being radical enough.

That’s why all the good little Christians at my high school are falling in behind him — not because they actually give a crap about conservatism but because he’s giving angry, aimless young men whose church hasn’t given them anything solid to fall back on an alternate source of values that happens to be steeped in fascist and white supremacist ideals. It’s just as absorbed in identity politics as any social-justice movement on the left is, except focused on white men and not LGBT people.

It has swallowed up most of the guys in the senior class at my school, and I’m tired of it. You can’t just not talk about politics with them, because everythingis politics to them. Every discussion devolves into things like which girls are “feminazis,” celebrities dating outside their ethnicity being “white genocide,” and so on. It’s suffocating to feel like if you say “actually, that’s really racist” you’re going to be brushed off as some liberal or a cuckservative. I’m genuinely scared that it’s going to spread to the point where I won’t have anyone I can talk to like a normal human being. This isn’t hyperbole.

I’ve sat and heard multiple conversations in the school hallway about things like how the very concept of legal immigration is “cultural Marxism” and about how if all the blacks in America moved back to Africa there’d be less crime, and Africa would be better off because they would have people who had learned things in America. It’s absolutely nuts, but what am I going to do? I don’t know that any adults would take me seriously if I told them this was a problem. The alt-right has defensive talking points are baked right into the ideology so as to make it more palatable for conservatives, just like how communism masqueraded as concern for the workers in the early days to make it appealing to moderate socialists.

Maybe that’s just the norm for kids my age now, and I’m going to just have to be paranoid that everyone that I meet is secretly a white nationalist.

Racialism is a powerful god — a false one, but a powerful one. Look at how identity politics (racial, sexual, etc.) has destroyed old-school liberalism. Racialism is going to do the same thing to old-school conservatism. Even if our churches are conservative in theology, if all they’re giving is right-wing politics [11] and bland therapeutic pieties, it will give us nothing with which to resist the anti-Christian Right. Note this well: the enemy of Christianity is not only the secular left! I don’t think this is well understood at all in conservative Christian circles. The post-religious Right will not be much more friendly to Christianity than the post-religious Left is and will be.

Read the whole Teitelbaum essay.  [1]

The question I always have for liberal critics of anti-modernists is this: what do you have to offer? If the Christian religion and its precepts are no longer undergirding and binding our civilization, what is? I find it hard to believe that anybody who thinks seriously about the state of the West believes that we can continue like this for the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: Reader Caroline Walker, commenting on a different thread, said something relevant to this post:

Rod, your discussion w Michael Hanby at mars hill radio back in January nailed our predicament so expertly that I wrote it down in my Notes for the Apocalypse: “you find your philosophical options come down to two: Either there is a word, or a Logos at the foundation of reality, so that reality is inherently intelligible and meaningful, and therefore there are natures, forms that persist in spite of the flux of history and time; or reality is fundamentally meaningless, and meaning is a kind of an epiphenomenal construct superimposed upon it.”
The Bay Area is ground zero for Technological man. Ye shall be as gods.
I keep telling people: it’s not a political divide. It’s a clash of world views. Spiritual warfare.

95 Comments (Open | Close)

95 Comments To "How Christianity Can Ride The Tiger"

#1 Comment By KD On August 11, 2017 @ 8:24 am

Alain De Benoist, whatever his flaws may be, is absolutely right that the conditions of globalized hyper-modernity are deeply corrosive to social identity. Even if the optimist case for globalization bears itself out, it will result in the total destruction of all traditional social identities, and then some. Further, I suspect the evangelists of globalization understand this result, and many see it as a desirable end.

Unfortunately, I think the human species has evolved over millions of years in a direction that has inculcated both social identity and the need for identity deeply in the human spirit. I have no doubt some can thrive in rootlessness, but most wither and die. The corollary is that the globalist project will fail, because the pervasive rootlessness it engenders will simultaneously weaken it (who is going to die for it?) while at the same time creating an opposing backlash that will destroy it.

Of course, it might take a century or two, or even a nuclear war, so there is plenty of time to eat, drink and be merry first.

[NFR: I strongly agree with De Benoist’s claim as reported here. It’s his rejection of Christianity that I reject. — RD]

#2 Comment By Oakinhou On August 11, 2017 @ 8:38 am

“[NFR: Perhaps I should have been more precise: orthodox/traditional Protestants and orthodox/traditional Catholics. — RD]”

Conflating orthodox/traditional Protestants and orthodox/traditional Catholics as being one and the same thing would imply that their different understandings of God, Grace, and Salvation are irrelevant, and not part of capital T “Truth” itself.

Instead, it’s the traditional understanding of gender, sexuality, and gender roles what is being elevated to the core of Truth itself. The “condensed symbol” as you once described it. Those who share the same understanding of gender and sexuality as orthodox/traditional Protestants and orthodox/traditional Catholics, like “orthodox/traditional” Jews and Muslims share with you the eternal core of capital T Truth.

You’ve said many times, correctly, that knowing about other religions, and having the ability to change from one another, changed everything. It changed our understanding of what capital-T Truth is. If Salvation comes from Works or from Faith only is no longer (therefore, never was) a capital-T Truth. The teleology of marriage, and whether same sex couples can or can’t partake of it, is, we are told here, a more critical element of capital-T Truth that if Jesus is truly the second person of the Godhood, or an inspired prophet, or a I century rabbi. It’s the first one, not the second, which defines whether you are, on not, part of the orthodox/traditional community. Episcopalians and Presbyterians who confess the Nicene Creed but do not share in the condensed symbol may be Christians (or small-c christians) but are no longer orthodox. They are, therefore, further away from capital-T Truth than a traditional Muslim family.

In this worldview, Christianity, religion in general, is not the big truth, but a tool to brings society closer to the real capital-T Truth at the core of discussion, the traditional organization of family and society. Eisenhower said it better “In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is”.

#3 Comment By KD On August 11, 2017 @ 9:01 am

Going back to Damore’s sin, treating a proposition about the lack of psychological differences between men and women as an empirical proposition about the “structure of reality”, no one in Google or in the American establishment in general, is interested in treating these questions are empirical matters.

Unlike the Virgin Birth, these doctrines emerged in order to legitimate racial, ethnic and sex-based nepotism under the auspices of “equality”–all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. No one is interested in empirical evidence, because the motivation is purely political and ideological, and aims at a political re-appropriation of opportunities from certain races, sexes and ethnicities to others.

Might is right, and the will to power overcomes the will to truth. Nothing new under the sun.

#4 Comment By T.S.Gay On August 11, 2017 @ 9:05 am

SjB:
I agreed with your comments so completely that I had to go back and look at many of your earlier ones. Can only think that being a three year catechism(ed) Lutheran way back in the day had some bearing. Anyway, the transgenderism and racialism of today are so disheartening. They are being especially pushed on young people. It’s brutal and hurtful. And so many think this is progress.

#5 Comment By Dustin On August 11, 2017 @ 9:47 am

“Orthodox Christianity, in which I believe, is fully pre-modern in its teaching and ethos.”

I agree with you on most topics, but there is one thing that bothers me about your writing – you often portray Orthodoxy as a bastion of doctrinal and moral purity against the horrors of liberal Protestantism and Catholicism. Isn’t there a significant liberal contingent within the Orthodox church though? Sure, there was never an Orthodox Vatican II or “spirit” thereof, but aren’t there plenty of liberal Orthodox Christians (including priests) who would like to see their particular Orthodox church “get with the times”? And haven’t there been many instances of clergy sex abuse in Orthodox parishes around the country (and I presume, world)?

[NFR: Where on earth did I ever say that Orthodoxy is free of clergy sex abuse? Nowhere, because I don’t believe it is. Yes, there are liberal Orthodox Christians who wish to liberalize and modernize Orthodox teachings on sexuality. They aren’t going to get far, because it’s so foreign to the tradition. — RD]

#6 Comment By Catalan On August 11, 2017 @ 10:12 am

There’s a lot here…

First, I agree that the post-Christian right wing poses a much bigger threat to orthodox Christianity. I grew up within the evangelical movement. The movement’s defenses are akin to those of Singapore in the 1930s: heavily fortified on one side, and almost undefended on the other. Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, there is very little possibility that evangelicalism will fall because any kind of liberal assault. There is virtually no tolerance within the movement for any expression of left-leaning political ideas. Just ask Larycia Hawkins. But the movement has an unguarded, porous border on the right. Any number of anti-Christian right-wing ideologies have been allowed to incubate and grow within the evangelical movement for decades. Those who traffic in such currency are generally viewed by evangelical leaders as people who are simply overzealous in a good cause. The “good cause,” of course, is the cause of fighting liberalism. Ever since the early 2000s, there has been a steady departure of educated, sober-minded, politically moderate Christians from the evangelical movement. And while these folks made up only about 10% of the church population, they probably accounted for 30% of giving and held a majority of leadership positions in local churches. I recently attended the general assembly of a major evangelical denomination as an observer. As I talked with pastors, I heard the same story over and over again: Our numbers have flattened, our giving is way down, and there are no men in the church who are qualified to serve in leadership positions.

For 6-7 decades, our chief cultural divide has been between conservatives and progressives. But the populist-elite divide is beginning to compete with it in terms of cultural significance. For decades, conservative elites have generally hung out on Sunday morning with conservative populists. That’s changed. Many conservative elites are now electing to hang out with liberal elites on Sunday morning. And post-evangelical scholars like Pete Enns have helped pave the way theologically for people to move from the PCA and SBC into the ECUSA. I don’t expect evangelicalism to collapse numerically. Rather, it will gradually lose any meaningful distinction between itself and the alt-right. My theological views always fell closer to the borders of mainline Protestantism. Leaving the PCA for the ECUSA was far easier than I expected. But staying within evangelicalism just wasn’t a viable option. As the populism came to dominate the ethos of my evangelical church culture, my conservatism wasn’t enough to stop those around me from viewing me with suspicion.

Sure, there are left-wing populists within the ECUSA. But they’re a distinct minority and will likely remain so. Elites probably make up 80% of the Sunday attendance and 95% of the giving. And while membership may be declining, many ECUSA churches are doing remarkably well financially.

In thinking about the BenOp, I suspect that its main attraction is among upper-middle-class evangelicals who don’t feel that they can follow the path I’ve followed. They want to leave their evangelical churches, but don’t feel that they can easily make their way to Rome, Byzantium, or Canterbury. For me, I’ve reached the point where faith is more about trust and it is about ideology.

Moreover, I don’t see that we have a Faustian choice to make between conservative ethical idealism and relativism. I’m quite content to split the difference and be an ethical realist. I believe in big-T Truth, but I don’t believe that it’s directly accessible. Conservative Christian groups traffic in the notion that they can provide one with such direct access. I’ve come to reject that notion. That said, the God who is Truth made this world and everything in it, and I can indirectly learn small-t truth through my daily living. Practicing these habits is what we once called the practice of gaining wisdom. In the end, I left the PCA for the ECUSA because I decided that, for Christians, it’s more important to pursue wisdom than it is to pursue being right.

[NFR: You’re incorrect about Evangelicalism being immune to left-wing appeals. One in particular is the way InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has embraced Black Lives Matter. — RD]

#7 Comment By LeeD On August 11, 2017 @ 10:16 am

I think you are correct on several matters regarding the fragile place of orthodox Christianity in the US – in particular, your belief that the morals and values of many are contrary to the metaphysical commitments and desired outcomes of your religion, and the belief that preservation of orthodox Christianity may require you to “ride the tiger.”

Nonetheless, your rhetoric of alarm often seems overdone. Not in the sense that you are understandably concerned about the direction of the values of the US community or its possible negative impact on how you practice your religion, but more in the sense that you seem to paint an overbroad brush when talking about your opponents. So, everyone on the left tends to be painted with the same rhetorical brush, notwithstanding the occasional anecdote about the one or two friends on the left who are ok and equally horrified by some of what goes on with the left.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, this rhetorical device of picking the worst of the left and ascribing their behavior and values to all (useful, I suppose, in getting the laggards up on the tiger) seems to ignore and even alienate the many faith and philosophical traditions in the US that could be allies. That is, while a Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Stoic, or Mormon may have a very different set of metaphysical commitments than orthodox Christianity, there are those among us who share many of your desired outcomes and values.

So, sure, ride the tiger while looking for ways to “come up with lessons for how contemporary Christians should evangelize.” But maybe also look for allies.

#8 Comment By Mark VA On August 11, 2017 @ 10:19 am

A couple of miscellaneous thoughts from a non-Western, Roman Catholic perspective:

(1) Quote: “The Bible — the basis for the historic Christian faith — gives us a certain view of reality”. Does history support the view that the Bible is “THE basis for the historic Christian faith”? (emphasis mine). In other words, what criteria were used to form the Canon in the first place? Could these criteria be still useful today to “stitch together” the various “Benedict Option” communities?;

(2) Regarding Benjamin Teitelbaum’s mention of “… Christianity’s totalizing teleological vision”:

In the historic Western European context, this makes sense when one considers the various expulsions of Jews: England-1290, France-1396, Spain-1492, etc. It makes less sense when examining the centuries long development of Jewish life with respect to the Statutes of Kalisz (1264), or to a different degree, the articles of Warsaw Confederation (1573);

I would propose that the Christian culture in the USA is much more in the spirit of the Statutes of Kalisz and Warsaw Confederation, than that of the “cleansers”. America’s fragmented Christianity, even if partially integrated (a big if), is not likely to become totalizing, since enough of it is morally self correcting;

Much of the Christian-Jewish discussion takes place under the auspices of the Polin Museum. Here is a small sample (English begins at 3:30):

#9 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 11, 2017 @ 10:32 am

Rod, I know how busy you are. I’m writing this in a personal mode. If you can’t respond, others I’m sure will weigh in.

Rod, quoted by Caroline Walker in the Update: “…you find your philosophical options come down to two: Either there is a word, or a Logos at the foundation of reality, so that reality is inherently intelligible and meaningful, and therefore there are natures, forms that persist in spite of the flux of history and time; or reality is fundamentally meaningless, and meaning is a kind of an epiphenomenal construct superimposed upon it.”

I really wish I could see the complete context from which Caroline took this quote. I absolutely do not doubt nor denigrate her quoting. It is an important statement, and I intend to respond to it as constructively as I can.

Rod, you also state earlier in your opening post: What’s more, to believe that the ultimate point of the church’s existence is to get someone to pray the sinner’s prayer, or to get baptized and/or confirmed within it, is a serious mistake. Making a decision for Christ is only the first step of the journey. Then you include this excerpt from the work of sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann:

(1) A person’s view of Reality is largely shaped, and maintained, within the community into which one has been socialized.

(2) In a pluralistic society, the possibility of conversion, that is, changing the way one perceives essential Reality, is opened up through conversations with people who live with a contrasting view of Reality, and

(3) one adopts and internalizes the new world-view through re-socialization into a community sharing that new worldview.

The juxtaposition of these, and the full gestalt context of your in my opinion brilliant post, is the “answer” I’ve been awaiting since the very first time I suggested to you that (very inadequate summary of a few thousand words from several people) the Great Commission is the greatest obstacle to Christianity in the modern world, having been its identifying characteristic to the rest of the world, and the practitioners of it having prompted most of the rest of the world to actively distrust both Christians and Christianity.

Rod, from our discussions comparing our diverse beliefs and how they shape our personal perceptions of each other and the world, I suggest to you now that the binary dichotomy from Caroline’s quote is flawed. It’s not wrong, it’s certainly accurate in its observations, but it suggests a logical choice that is easily refuted. Review our discussions, how we seem to be reasonably close to each other in how we perceive certain things, how we can have a point of consensus without needing to surrender one’s “logos” to the other’s. I remember at one point saying to you that while I sling the Christian lingo, I use it deliberately and without hypocrisy. The words convey the ideas accurately. I have no need to argue with you about the words, or impose my word choices upon you.

My point here is simple: I’ve fully embraced the Christian Logos, and it has totally failed to convert me. I am not alone in this. This simple fact is what motivates me to stand against any coming persecutions of Christians, especially from those with whom I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder in promoting their sacred agenda points. It’s what prompts me to reiterate so vehemently that Christians need to own up to the damage done by the people of the Great Commission*, to acknowledge it and take a close look at the scars of those so damaged. That simple act of empathy could go a very long way towards mitigating what you rightly fear and anticipate, some of which has already appeared.

… or not. I can’t avoid acknowledging the constant barrage of reinforcing statements and events, pushing my cynicism to its limits. Our society has embraced scapegoating, it has long since become desensitized to violence that isn’t up close and personal, and while I usually eschew comparisons to the decline of the Pagan Roman empire, I can easily see bread and circuses becoming a defining goal for both politicians and voters. It’s already a secondary goal, just ask any market researcher or advertising analyst.

#10 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 11, 2017 @ 10:35 am

Darn, created a footnote and didn’t include the note. …people of the Great Commission*… refers to the fact that many will read me as bashing Christianity, whereas my wording’s direct reading is that I’m bashing missionaries and missionary practices in many parts of the world.

#11 Comment By Colonel Bogey On August 11, 2017 @ 11:04 am

Mr Teitelbaum understatedly characterizes the late Giulio Cesare Evola as a ‘fascist sympathizer and race theorist’. Baron Evola was much more flamboyant (and worse) than that: an occultist, like his friend Heinrich Himmler (and a mountaineer, like that other occultist, Aleister Crowley), he was obsessed by a pseudo-Tibetan mysticism (like the ‘bloody White baron’ of Mongolia, Baron von Ungern-Sternberg). He defended himself at his trial in 1951 by saying that he was not a fascist, but a ‘superfascist’, and was acquitted. Even the Duce himself seems to have regarded him as a crackpot.

What Evola must not have known is this: there is on record a case in which an unarmed man climbed on the back of a healthy Bengal tiger and strangled it to death with his bare hands. One would think that this would have appealed to his ideas of virility, and led him to call for strangling tigers, instead of merely riding them.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 11, 2017 @ 12:05 pm

“My principles are only those that, before the French Revolution, every well-born person considered sane and normal.”
― Julius Evola

Off with his head! The French Revolution was a confused mess, and a lot of innocent people got hurt, but, Julius Evola is the sort of peculiarly vile, self-centered would-be aristocrat, who lends a patina of justification to the guillotine. Of course I would prefer that he live in poverty and obscurity than that one innocent person should die in an over-exuberant attempt to make sure Evola did not escape.

Of course I accept that Rod Dreher is not a fascist. A fascist would not appreciate the attention Ruthie Dreher paid to the kind of pupils Ruthie Dreher had in her classes. Among other things. And anyway, we’re all friends here. I have an implied pact with M_Young that either of us would find refuge for the other in our respective attics, should some revolution go the other way.

But the operative term in Evola’s honest self-indictment is “well-born.” That is the heart of the problem. No, every human being ever born is not a genius, not a paragon of courtesy, not a great humanitarian… but neither are the “well-born.” It was God’s providence and mercy that in the fullness of time humanity matured enough to throw off the idolatry of suppressed humanity for the “well-born.” (Not to mention the worship of the “well-born” for themselves.) It is the devil’s own work to try to re-establish that anachronism.

The great Celtic saints were evangelists, builders of human communities that offered alternative ways of life for all sorts of people…

Yes, there is a lot to admire about Celtic culture and Celtic Christianity. But then, the Celtic church, which had married clergy, produced dynasties which inherited powerful and wealthy abbacies and dioceses, or produced dynastic struggles between cousins or rival family lines for the same. Which is one reason the Roman Catholic Church eventually imposed priestly celibacy, as distinct from the custom at the time of the Apostle Paul, when a bishop should be the husband of one wife.

We built an entire school system to protect our children from Protestant indoctrination.

Yes, but you didn’t build enough high schools. Only the best and the brightest went to Catholic high schools. The rest were either expected to go to work after eighth grade, or, as that became increasingly untenable, dumped back into the unholy terrors of the public schools.

“if all the blacks in America moved back to Africa there’d be less crime”

Speaking from an American Indian perspective, this would also be true if everyone else’s descendants also “moved back.”

Think of the savings in police militarization, alone.

Sorry Fran, but I have excellent books on the Comanche Empire and the feudal center at Cahokia on my bookshelf. The American Indians are esthetically appealing in part because of the remnant is so appealing AFTER a wave of Europeans rolled across the landscape. Of course there were lines of history which would have been much better and not infeasible, such as the Five Tribes becoming constituent states of the union, and with that example, Red Cloud might have managed to establish the State of Dakota. Or, as Orson Scott Card has speculated, the Irakwa might have built and operated the transportation infrastructure of the Erie canal and the eastern Great Lakes.

But the same fallacies underly the claim that if all the African Americans were deported, there would be less crime. In areas where there are no significant African American populations, there are “white” people filling the same niches in the social and economic fabric of the community.

Even if it is true that there is a statistically higher rate of genetic disposition toward crime, only 5-10 percent of African Americans would need to be deported to lower the crime rate. And of course, we could also deport 2-6 percent of the “white” folks while we’re at it. After all, the percentage of “white” people with a genetic disposition toward committing lynching and gratuitous rape was also rather small, although a lot of people seem to have looked the other way rather than confront it.

“Liberalism” is an empty slogan.

Indeed. So why are you so anxious to paste an empty slogan on real live people?

One caveat: liberalism properly understood is a philosophy of laissez-faire economics, employing free trade to lower living expenses so that wages may be reduced, and subjecting the working classes to the paternalistic guidance of the Christian men to whom God has entrusted the wealth of the nation. By that time-honored traditional definition, there is substance to the term liberal, there are people who merit the label, and they are the enemy of the working class. Anyone watched ?the British TV series, “The Mill”>

#13 Comment By grumpy realist On August 11, 2017 @ 12:17 pm

I think the first warning that every seeker-after-metaphysical-truths should hear is the following:

First of all, be humble. Don’t be so certain that the “truths” you have managed to uncover are any more than the hallucinations generated by your own id in order to feel better about yourself.

[NFR: Is this not true of you as well? — RD]

#14 Comment By grumpy realist On August 11, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

(P.S. and the above goes for the Social Justice Warriors as well, by the way. Don’t be so certain you have a monopoly on Ultimate Truth. Always be trying to overthrow your own assertions.)

#15 Comment By Seraphim On August 11, 2017 @ 12:48 pm

Julius Evola may be one of a few people who are certified non-Fascists, as may be seen from the following account of Evola’s trial, in post-war Italy, for fomenting Fascism: “He [Evola] asked the prosecutor, Dr. Sangiorgi, where in his published writings he had defended ‘distinctively Fascist ideas’. Sangiorgi admitted that there were no such specific passages, but that the general spirit of his works promoted ‘Fascist ideas,’ such as monocracy, hierarchism, aristocracy, or elitism. Evola responded, ‘I should say that if such are the terms of the accusation, I would be honored to see seated here next to me as defendants men such as Aristotle, Plato, the Dante of De Monarchia, and so on, up to Metternich and Bismarck.’ At this point, Evola’s lawyer Carnelutti shouted out ‘La polizia e andata in cerca anche di costoro!’ (‘The police have gone to look for them, too!’)”

Evola was found by the jury to be not just “not guilty” but “innocent” [a verdict that is an option in Italian criminal law, apparently]. J. Evola, “A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism” (introduction by E. Christian Kopff).

Also: the fact that kids in that high school can be talking about cultural Marxism in the hall is an encouraging sign of nascent intellects.

#16 Comment By HP On August 11, 2017 @ 12:53 pm

I am not a fan of de Benoist and Evola, but they are much more interesting than what you would think reading Teitelbaum, especially de Benoist. Associating them with the alt-right is just ridiculous. That being said, Teitelbaum’s quite insightful when he compares the Ben Op with Evola’s “cavalcare la tigre”. It’s true that it’s the same strategy, even if it comes from a totally different place.

#17 Comment By seven sleepers On August 11, 2017 @ 1:41 pm

Well, “a girl’s gotta eat” as they say. I guess Teitelbaum thought (correctly) the comparison to Evola would turn heads (and clicks). He thought correctly.

On another note, one which I want to be crystal clear I do NOT wish nor endorse, it is the Evolanese Right that IS growing. Especially in Europe. And it is the Right that Douthat has warned the left against. German Idealism is still the most dangerous philosophy out there, imo.

Still, call me cranky but, this mistakes the history of it all. The Pope was railing against modernism for centuries! When Evola was 12 years old, the Pope **Commmanded All** religious to swear an oath against modernism. So, Evola or any of the Enthno-Fascists are late comers, at best, and are included just as click bait.

Hey, don’t believe me? Read what harmless Pope Pius X wrote about Public schools. Question: COuld Pope Francis make this statement today? Follow-up: what has changed yathink?

“”Obviously the need of this Christian instruction is accentuated by the decline of our times and morals. It is even more demanded by the existence of those public schools, lacking all religion, where everything holy is ridiculed and scorned. There both teachers’ lips and students’ ears are inclined to godlessness. We are referring to those schools which are unjustly called neutral or lay. In reality, they are nothing more than the stronghold of the powers of darkness.” Editae Saepe, Pope St. Pius X, 1910″

[12]

#18 Comment By Egypt Steve On August 11, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

Is this politically incorrect? I don’t know.

A smiling young lady from Niger
Took a ride on the back of a tiger.
At the end of her ride,
She wound up inside
With her smile on the face of the tiger.

#19 Comment By Rob G On August 11, 2017 @ 2:53 pm

“Last I checked, the Sexual Revolution was not mandatory–Christians, or anyone else, are more than free to submit to the discipline of Christian sexual ethics.”

It may not be personally mandatory, but it’s culturally mandatory if not to embrace it in toto, then at very least to offer it a deferential bow and pinch of incense.

To put this another way, on one level I have no problem with what homosexual men do behind closed doors. If orifices don’t matter then for all I care they can bugger one another in the earhole if they want to. But I’ll be damned if I’ll be forced to say, let alone think, that such things are normal.

#20 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 11, 2017 @ 3:39 pm

Rob G: It may not be personally mandatory, but it’s culturally mandatory if not to embrace it in toto, then at very least to offer it a deferential bow and pinch of incense.

Your following statement is a very reasonable step towards consensus. However, the rebuttal to your quoted statement is very simple.

After decades of homosexual behavior being legally criminalized — in the UK they castrated gay men, Turing being the prominent example — no one, especially homosexuals but many heterosexuals as well, is going to give you the time of day with such nonsense.

You are invited to clarify your personal position, but it’s statements like yours that send a message to all of those former criminals: “we really wish we could still put you in prison.”

It’s your empty moralizing for which we expect silence. The rest is your choice: if silence is so difficult, and you can’t help moralizing, the rest of us will just keep on hearing “put them in jail”, and at best dismiss you, at worst treat you as a direct threat.

In short: what’s mandatory is the absence of Christian morality from criminal statutes.

#21 Comment By Colonel Bogey On August 11, 2017 @ 3:48 pm

Mr Siarlys Jenkins–: That ‘feudal centre’ was not at Cahokia; it was just outside of Collinsville, in the next county and way up the road from Cahokia, Illinois.

#22 Comment By Christoph On August 11, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

Is there a logos in nature?
Out of these two philosophical options, I currently opt for the third: there may be a logos of some sort or there may not, I don’t know (no choice is also a choice). What’s interesting is framing this as a matter of personal choice. You’ve got to decide. It’s war. And on what basis, pray, are we to make this momentous decision? Not superior argument, apparently: ‘The first Christians gained converts not because their arguments were better than those of the pagans but because people saw in them and their communities something good and beautiful—and they wanted it. This led them to the Truth.’ (Followed up with a little payback persecution to clean up the stragglers).

But doesn’t this land us in a classic MacIntyrean emotivist trap? That is, although both sides can back themselves up with sophisticated arguments, their conclusions are only valid if one accepts their premises. And one accepts those premises because one side or the other just seems so good and beautiful that you want to follow them. So both sides end up in an emotivist arms race for recruits.

Maybe your story goes something like this: it is alright when we employ emotive tactics – pointing to our beautiful art, our kindness and virtue, and playing up the foulest degradations of our enemies – because what we believe is Truth and what they believe is not. In fact, when done properly, these are not emotivist tactics at all, but manifestations of that same transcendent Truth. It was the Holy Spirit itself that overwhelmed you at the Cathedral.

But to the rest of us this seems like assuming what you might seek to prove. It seems like you’re having it both ways: you lament the collapse of objective truth into the emotivist maelstrom, but with every twist of the knife you present thoroughly emotive reasons to sign up to your preferred ‘truth’. It is frustrating to be told that you should believe something, not because it is likely to be true, but because the consequences of people not believing it are revolting.

#23 Comment By Jack On August 11, 2017 @ 4:57 pm

“The question I always have for liberal critics of anti-modernists is this: what do you have to offer?”

Many think you can live a meaningful, even better, life without certainty. Dewey, Rorty, Nietzsche, Camus have all provided possible answers here. For Dewey and Rorty, conversation and evolving community. For Nietzsche and Camus, self-creation. Some of us prefer the chaos and adventure rather than the foundational certainty provided by faith.

#24 Comment By Seven Sleepers On August 11, 2017 @ 6:13 pm

@Dustin

“…They aren’t going to get far, because it’s so foreign to the tradition. — RD]”

Dustin, the difference is, in the Orthodox Church, for liberalization to take effect, the entire tradition would need to implode.

I have no doubt a V2 is coming for the Orthodox Church. In fact, one was just narrowly missed a few months ago, or perhaps a precursor. But if it were to happen, unlike Rome, the Orthodox Church would need to implode very publicly. It would be all out civil war.

V2 was insidious to Catholicism bc it was so heavily represented by clergy that the laity didn’t stand a chance. The changes were swept in overnight and with such vigor, but all with a smile and hush. In a moment, it was over. I just dont think it is going ot go down like that in the Orhtodox Church, not the least reason has to do with the lack of a central head. We’ll see though…

#25 Comment By Saul Goodman On August 11, 2017 @ 7:29 pm

“To be fair to Teitelbaum, he does paint Chaput and me as “anti-modernists,” which I suppose is reasonably accurate for me (I’ll let the Archbishop speak for himself). But Teitelbaum’s piece does not give a sufficient sense of the argument I make. It comes across as a standard liberal reading of The Benedict Option as a simplistic reactionary tract by a guy who can’t deal with the glory of diversity and the wonders of Snapchat.”

Speaking as a liberal who has read much of your writing and is fairly open minded about other ideological points of view, this is basically how I view your near-apocalyptic writings on sexuality.

I don’t mean to imply that you haven’t given the issue much thought. Clearly you have. But your views on sex and the way you link it to the more general moral decay you seem to see everywhere around you, it’s clear that it is coming from more visceral and emotional place than any kind of rational thought.

Without trying to intentionally provoke you, I would posit that organized religion has been far more dangerous to mankind that a sexually liberated society ever will be. Sex has always been important to most organized religions for several reasons, some you may agree with me about and others you surely would not. Sex provides for a level of intimacy between two people that transcends nearly all other loyalties. It also more closely hones the focus of men and women on earthly pleasures and away from the kind of abstract mental outlook that leads to acceptance to dogma. Both of those concepts are nigh existential threats to the ability of organized religion to maintain its grip on a society.

This is why most forms of Judeo-Christian religions have such strict codes around sexuality. If the Catholic Church let its priests marry and have sex, then some of them might eventually come to the realization that spending their entire lives suppressing their wants and desires in exchange for an uncertain reward (regardless of what you believe, nobody knows what happens to us after we die) is more or less a big scam.

I’m not advocating hedonism, and anyone with half a brain knows if you go too far in the other direction it can lead to its own form of tragic madness. But pretending that modern religion’s hang ups about sex are derived from some higher platonic, a priori concept of morality is absurd. You need only set your sights lower, at the actions of the men who lead these organizations and the earthly powers they gleefully wield while denying its importance to their flock, to understand that it is primarily a form of control.

#26 Comment By Nelson On August 11, 2017 @ 8:43 pm

I would say there isn’t such a huge gap between liberalism and the teachings of Christ. In fact there are liberals who are religious just as there are conservatives who are not. Most liberal ideals can be derived from a combination of Jesus’ teaching to love one another as well as the revolutionary universalism of the New Testament where all people are equal in the eyes of God.

Most conservative arguments sound to me like a longing for a return to the Old Testament with its many laws and prohibitions, and most important of all, a special designation of “chosen people” that makes a distinction between us and them, with “us” being God’s favorite of course.

#27 Comment By JonF On August 11, 2017 @ 10:28 pm

RE: If the Catholic Church let its priests marry and have sex, then some of them might eventually come to the realization that spending their entire lives suppressing their wants and desires in exchange for an uncertain reward (regardless of what you believe, nobody knows what happens to us after we die) is more or less a big scam.

Saul Goodman
The Orthodox Church allows for married priests, and preaches the goodness of marriage and children– and yet also the goodness of celibacy for those called to that path. Somehow we have managed over many centuries to hold to both ideals, proof that this need not be an either/or choice.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 11, 2017 @ 11:24 pm

Mr Siarlys Jenkins–: That ‘feudal centre’ was not at Cahokia; it was just outside of Collinsville, in the next county and way up the road from Cahokia, Illinois.

Colonel, I accept your expertise on proper forms of address for titled nobility in Stuart and Hanoverian Britain. But I have on my book shelf a book entitled “Cahokia” that describes in detail the feudal center I mentioned. I suspect we are simply dealing with hair-splitting about the overlapping names of townships, villages, counties, landmarks, etc.

I see on Mapquest that “Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site” is about half way between East St. Louis and Collinsville.

#29 Comment By JonF On August 12, 2017 @ 6:56 am

RE: I have no doubt a V2 is coming for the Orthodox Church.

There is basically zero desire in the Orthodox Church for fiddling with our liturgy (which is already done in local languages). We do have some jurisdictional issues that need solution, though that shouldn’t require a council, but if it does it’s hard to see how normalizing Church governance in the diaspora, and in disputed lands like Ukraine and Macedonia, would loose the boogeyman of modernism– though it would discomfit some of the older patriarchies who would lose a cash cow.
As for our moral teachings, the long-established principle of economia in our church and the fact that we are somewhat decentralized allows for greater flexibility when dealing with local and individual situations so there is no great pressure for any church-wide revolution in these areas.
The “bullet” we “dodged” recently was a very traditionalist one, since the synod or whatever we should call it simply reiterated Orthodox teachings of long standing, which I would expect any full Council would also do in matters that have long been settled. Had the Russians and Georgians been there I can’t imagine the meeting would have taken a turn to the radical (let alone heretical) because of their participation.
Someday probably we, and all religions and philosophies, will face truly unique and novel questions involving, perhaps, alien sentient life, AI, genetic engineering. And yes, that will put is to the test. But until then why borrow trouble?

#30 Comment By MichaelLF On August 12, 2017 @ 8:44 am

Saul Goodman wrote, “But pretending that modern religion’s hang ups about sex are derived from some higher platonic, a priori concept of morality is absurd. You need only set your sights lower, at the actions of the men who lead these organizations and the earthly powers they gleefully wield while denying its importance to their flock, to understand that it is primarily a form of control.”

I don’t agree with some orthodox positions on sexuality. I believe contraception and homosexuality are moral choices and women should be encouraged to pursue any ambition.

But I wouldn’t characterize orthodox positions as “primarily a form of control.” Orthodox sexual positions brought justice and beauty to first-century marital and sexual practices. The world is the better for the work of early Christians in reimagining the meaning and purpose of sex, marriage, and procreation. The Christian prohibition against abortion was especially liberating and positive.

Orthodox Christianity did make two mistakes early on. Paul thought Christ’s return so imminent that marriage was a distraction. The resulting emphasis on celibacy was taken a darker route by thinkers like Augustine who placed sex at the center of his understanding of humanity. The Eastern Orthodox view of original sin and of the role of celibacy is healthier and truer to first-century Christianity than Roman Catholic views.

The mistake orthodox Christians are making is that they are not adapting Christian sexual morality to real societal changes fast enough to guide Christians through these changes. They have seen progressive Christians make the mistake of changing the moral code too quickly and throwing away some legitimately eternal principles, but their fear of repeating these mistakes has made them double down on some outdated and unnecessary principles.

Christians should encourage monogamous gay marriages, for example, and contraception but not abortion except when medically necessary.

#31 Comment By Rob G On August 12, 2017 @ 10:52 am

“It’s your empty moralizing for which we expect silence. The rest is your choice: if silence is so difficult, and you can’t help moralizing, the rest of us will just keep on hearing ‘put them in jail’, and at best dismiss you, at worst treat you as a direct threat.”

Ah yes, some of us have been saying for decades that it’s nigh impossible for liberals to grasp the concept “hate the sin but love the sinner,” incapable as they are to separate a man from his opinions, let alone his actions.

This doesn’t mean that Christians have themselves been good at it, of course. In many cases, perhaps in most, we haven’t. But this in no way negates the call for us to do it.

Having said that, it doesn’t allow us off the hook of calling sin sin, either. “Woe unto those who call evil good and good evil,” says Isaiah. The Sexual Revolution has been a 50 year exercise in condoning and normalizing promiscuity and perversion. If you want to muzzle Christians for vocally resisting this endeavor, have at it. Many of us will not go quietly.

#32 Comment By Rob G On August 12, 2017 @ 11:03 am

“In short: what’s mandatory is the absence of Christian morality from criminal statutes.”

Sorry, but if it were this merely, you wouldn’t see nearly as much resistance. As Neuhaus said years ago, “the love that cannot speak its name has become the love that won’t shut up about itself.” That’s fine as far as it goes — free speech and all. Just don’t expect me, or try to compel me, to cheer it on or give my approval. This ain’t North Korea. Yet.

#33 Comment By Colonel Bogey On August 12, 2017 @ 11:59 am

Mr Jenkins: The historic site is indeed called ‘Cahokia Mounds’, but it’s not in Cahokia. When the French explorers first saw the mounds in the 18th century, the only settlement in the area was Cahokia, named for a local Indian tribe in the area at that time. But the Cahokia Indians did not build the mounds; we don’t know the name of the tribe that did build them, long before the Cahokia tribe lived in the area.

Cahokia itself lost its population, and during the first half of the 20th century it was open farmland, with one or two old buildings that have been extensively reconstructed since then, including an old log church where the Tridentine Mass is now celebrated weekly. After the Second World War, the area of Cahokia was redeveloped into new subdivisions, and reincorporated as a town. It provided homes for refugees from East St. Louis, at first white, and later black. It’s pretty much a slum nowadays.

In the meantime, Collinsville was established in the 19th century, and is still a thriving community, the closest one to the mounds. The high school sports teams in Collinsville call themselves ‘the Kahoks’, as a nod to the old tribe of the Cahokia Indians, who were casually assumed to have built the mounds, until archaeology proved otherwise.

#34 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 12, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

Rob G.,

It could become a version of North Korea, closer I predict to the Orwellian/Huxlean persuasion methinks. Time will tell.

I am not, in any fashion, whether the tome of any given post of mine is serious (as this one is) or sarcastic (as perhaps too many of them have been), suggesting that any Christians let themselves off the hook. Commitment to faith is a hallmark of the Christians I’ve known and encountered, to whom I easily offer my trust. That offer is very difficult to earn, I should add in case you’ve not seen many of my previous posts.

I’m heterosexual. I offer my limited perspective and opinion, colored deeply by what homosexuals have experienced, told to me or witnessed by me.

Sorry, but if it were this [criminalization?] merely, you wouldn’t see nearly as much resistance.

I’m going to respond as if my assumption of your intended context is correct. Do, please correct me if needed. It started out as “that” merely, and was resisted so vociferously that the high-profile turning-point case had to go to SCOTUS for a final decision. The same with civil unions for same-sex couples. The moralizing resistance to both was egregious.

I expect two things.

I expect you to be free to form your opinions, express them publicly, and have them inform your upbringing of your own children without interference from the state or society.

I expect a very loud, vocal minority of people whose identity labels fit you, to make your life very difficult by misrepresenting you in several ways.

Y’all are becoming the new scapegoats. All I ask is that you objectively review how your scapegoats were chosen and treated when you held the reins of power… and if you can’t bring yourselves to honestly acknowledge the scapegoating you’ve engaged in, I can only grit my teeth and stand aside as you reap what you’ve sown.

#35 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 12, 2017 @ 3:50 pm

In other words Colonel Bogey, you have been engaging in much ado about nothing, and you had sufficient data in your possession to know it.

“In short: what’s mandatory is the absence of Christian morality from criminal statutes.”

I take a more nuanced view. It is certainly true that the tenets of Christian theology cannot be mandated by statute. However, it remains true that voters are informed by their Christian or pagan or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu faith, or their lack of faith, in how they think and what they aspire to. To the extent that congress or a state has jurisdiction to pass laws of general applicability, the fact that Christian morality may inform voters choice of legislators who will vote to make X, Y, or Z legal or illegal does not invalidate the law.

For example, if private consenting behavior of adults is outside the jurisdiction of the police powers of the state, then any number of things, Christians or not, are not fit subjects for criminal legislation. But if congress has the authority to regulate inter-state commerce, and enough Christians took seriously the traditional prohibition of usury in their faith tradition, there is no reason that congress could not prohibit usury, merely because Christian morality also prohibits it.

The Orthodox Church allows for married priests, and preaches the goodness of marriage and children– and yet also the goodness of celibacy for those called to that path. Somehow we have managed over many centuries to hold to both ideals, proof that this need not be an either/or choice.

Well said. We need a lot less demanding “either/or” choices.

#36 Comment By nemo On August 12, 2017 @ 8:54 pm

Colonel Bogey wrote:

“Mr Teitelbaum understatedly characterizes the late Giulio Cesare Evola as a ‘fascist sympathizer and race theorist’ … He [Evola] defended himself at his trial in 1951 by saying that he was not a fascist, but a ‘superfascist’, and was acquitted.”

I would be interested in knowing where precisely Evola ever called himself a “superfascist” because I have seen this claim made before but I have never found it in his own writings. And indeed it makes no sense that he would as Evola did in fact say that he was neither a fascist nor an antifascist at said trial as can be read here in his “Self-Defense Statement” from same trial:

[13]

Evola considered himself to be a man of the Second Estate, and not because he was a baron by birth, but because that is what he considered himself to be in his “spirit.” His rejection of the modern world was rooted in his disgust for modern bourgeois society which he traced to the rise of the Third Estate beginning with the Renaissance (or even earlier during the Guelph/Ghibelline conflict) and its ultimate victory (displacement of the Second Estate) during the French Revolution. He saw the rise of the Third Estate, and its attendant capitalism, as a planned transitional step toward the ultimate rise of the Fourth Estate, the worst possible state of affairs in the Kali Yuga. Fascism was a reaction to capitalism which did not reject the capitalist paradigm (ditto for Communism), but rather “tweaked” capitalism in order to “perfect” it. As such, Fascism was a post-capitalist corporatism, a movement necessarily of the Left, and obviously a movement of the Fourth Estate. Thus, Evola, as a pre-capitalist corporatist who rejected the capitalist paradigm out of hand, was no Fascist. Evola was instead a Reactionary in the tradition of de Maistre, Bonald, and Donoso Cortes, and a man of the Right in no uncertain terms.

“Evola was much more flamboyant (and worse) than that: an occultist, like his friend Heinrich Himmler”

Evola knew Himmler personally but there was hardly a friendship as Himmler rightly regarded Evola as a Reactionary who, as a man of the Second Estate, naturally posed a danger to National Socialism, a movement of the Fourth Estate (as in there was a risk that Evola would hijack their movement for his own purposes), and the SS was under orders not to encourage Evola’s popularity as speaker and even to surreptitiously inhibit his activity as such. In spirit, Evola was a man of the Second Estate while Himmler was a man of the Fourth Estate: they were hardly friends. Evola was only interested in National Socialism to the extent that he thought he could use it as a vehicle to re-implement traditional aspects of Western Civilization which had been lost with the rise of the Third Estate. He was interested in the SS in general as an elite cadre of men for this purpose, and in the Ahnenerbe in particular due to his interest in esoterism and its relationship to metaphysics which he placed at the heart of civilization.

“Even the Duce himself seems to have regarded him as a crackpot.”

Mussolini had risen from socialist ranks to lead Fascism just as Hitler had risen from socialist ranks to lead National Socialism. Mussolini, like Hitler, was a leftist and a man of the Fourth Estate. Just as the German Junkers regarded Hitler as “vulgar,” so did Evola regard Mussolini. If il Duce regarded Evola as a crackpot, the feeling was mutual. There was not a lot of common ground here.

The one area where il Duce praised Evola was with regard to the latter’s Doctrine of Race which he made the official race doctrine of the Fascist regime. Evola, always regarding the transcendent, rejected the Nazis’ biological racism as base materialism and instead promoted racism of the spirit which stated that one could be Aryan in spirit regardless of skin color, and furthermore that spirit was all that mattered. This naturally suited the Italian Fascist regime in relation to the Axis alliance.

#37 Comment By nemo On August 12, 2017 @ 9:15 pm

Siarlys Jenkins wrote:

“But the operative term in Evola’s honest self-indictment is “well-born.” That is the heart of the problem. No, every human being ever born is not a genius, not a paragon of courtesy, not a great humanitarian… but neither are the “well-born.” It was God’s providence and mercy that in the fullness of time humanity matured enough to throw off the idolatry of suppressed humanity for the “well-born.” (Not to mention the worship of the “well-born” for themselves.) It is the devil’s own work to try to re-establish that anachronism.”

It is not clear that you have actually read Evola. He means any decent man with the competence to have an opinion on the subject. Evola believed in a true aristocracy in the Aristotelian sense, and this would also be a true meritocracy. He never advocated a caste system so rigid that people could not move between levels when warranted. He was so focused on the transcendent at the expense of the material that all that ever mattered to him was spirit. What caste (or which Estate) is one spiritually? That is where one belongs. And as in traditional civilizations, all political power will be held by the Second Estate with the First Estate playing its appointed role. Political power will be specifically withheld from the Third and Fourth Estates. But again, ultimately it is spirit which determines estate for Evola, not birth.

#38 Comment By Colonel Bogey On August 13, 2017 @ 10:42 am

Nemo wrote: “Mussolini, like Hitler, was a leftist and a man of the Fourth Estate.”

Well, they were certainly both leftists, but only Mussolini was a man of the Fourth Estate–that is, a scribbling journalist. That’s what ‘Fourth Estate’ has always meant, and it is still an apt metaphoric characterization of the role of media personages in society. Evola’s ‘Fourth Estate’ is really only a lower subdivision of the Third Estate.

#39 Comment By Abelard Lindsey On August 13, 2017 @ 11:40 am

My Christianity, like the Christianity of St. Benedict, does proclaim itself as true for all peoples in all ways and at all times.

In other words, you are both a utopian and a totalitarian, really no different than the left.

[NFR: Oh, please. I don’t want to impose my faith on anyone. I would like them to come to it because they believe it’s true. But if it’s only “true for me,” then it isn’t true at all. — RD]

#40 Comment By nemo On August 13, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

Colonel Bogey wrote:

Obviously we are not talking about the press but what Evola meant by the term “Fourth Estate.” And in Evolian terms, as both Mussolini and Hitler led collectivist revolutionary movements of the masses, they were both men of the Fourth Estate.

Yes, traditional European civilization did not distinguish between merchants and laborers and lumped them together as the Third Estate. However, it was critical to Evola’s argument to distinguish them, and there was of course precedent in the traditional world to distinguish them, minimally in the Vedas. And frankly, I believe it quite obviously makes more sense to distinguish them as there is a world of difference between an individualist, libertarian revolution of merchants and farmers and a collectivist, totalitarian revolution of laborers and street thugs. As such, Evola’s model stands.

#41 Comment By nemo On August 13, 2017 @ 3:52 pm

Obviously we are not talking about the press but what Evola meant by the term “Fourth Estate.” And in Evolian terms, as both Mussolini and Hitler led collectivist revolutionary movements of the masses, they were both men of the Fourth Estate.

Yes, traditional European civilization did not distinguish between merchants and laborers and lumped them together as the Third Estate. However, it was critical to Evola’s argument to distinguish them, and there was of course precedent in the traditional world to distinguish them, minimally in the Vedas. And frankly, I believe it quite obviously makes more sense to distinguish them as there is a world of difference between an individualist, libertarian revolution of merchants and farmers and a collectivist, totalitarian revolution of laborers and street thugs. As such, Evola’s model stands.

#42 Comment By nemo On August 13, 2017 @ 3:59 pm

I’m sorry, but I guess there is no edit function here. My post is addressed to Colonel Bogey, but does not quote him. So maybe on the third try here I will get it right. Thanks.

Colonel Bogey,

Obviously we are not talking about the press but what Evola meant by the term “Fourth Estate.” And in Evolian terms, as both Mussolini and Hitler led collectivist revolutionary movements of the masses, they were both men of the Fourth Estate.

Yes, traditional European civilization did not distinguish between merchants and laborers and lumped them together as the Third Estate. However, it was critical to Evola’s argument to distinguish them, and there was of course precedent in the traditional world to distinguish them, minimally in the Vedas. And frankly, I believe it quite obviously makes more sense to distinguish them as there is a world of difference between an individualist, libertarian revolution of merchants and farmers and a collectivist, totalitarian revolution of laborers and street thugs. As such, Evola’s model stands.

#43 Comment By Rob G On August 13, 2017 @ 4:00 pm

“I’m going to respond as if my assumption of your intended context is correct. Do, please correct me if needed.”

What is objectionable is the increasingly mandatory nature of the expected kowtowing to the principles/goals of the Sexual Revolution. No one’s forcing us to join in, obviously; promiscuity and perversion have not themselves been made mandatory. But what is becoming mandatory is the stifling of speech that seeks to counter or rebut the dominant trend. Frankly, I don’t see why this is so difficult to grasp.

I don’t have a huge problem with the marginalization side of the thing. That’s to be expected given the trend of the culture. But the freedom of speech and freedom of religion aspects are highly problematic, given the First Amendment.

“I expect you to be free to form your opinions, express them publicly, and have them inform your upbringing of your own children without interference from the state or society.

I expect a very loud, vocal minority of people whose identity labels fit you, to make your life very difficult by misrepresenting you in several ways.”

I expect the first one to grow increasingly less likely in the long run, and I don’t understand what you’re saying in the second.

#44 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 13, 2017 @ 9:15 pm

nemo tells us that the working class is inherently totalitarian in nature, and thus tells any revolution of laborers that it had better be totalitarian, or it may lose power to those individualist, libertarian bourgeois. I’ll pass.

Evola believed in a true aristocracy in the Aristotelian sense, and this would also be a true meritocracy. He never advocated a caste system so rigid that people could not move between levels when warranted.

I do not find that reassuring. Union presidents who were defeated for re-election have been known to go into business for themselves, and run the most thug-infested vicious open shop companies imaginable. The fact that people can rise to join that sort of aristocracy is not a comfort. And Aristotle is not a paragon.

Incidentally, while Mussolini definitely was an international socialist before becoming a national socialist, Hitler was never anything of the kind. He was a discharged soldier fulminating about the Jews and socialists selling out the Fatherland, when he stumbled upon a group of twelve or so nut jobs who called themselves the National Socialist German Workers Party, which was hostile to socialism as then understood, had little or nothing to do with labor agitation, and served as a vehicle for Hitler’s own non-socialist passions.

#45 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 14, 2017 @ 10:26 am

Rob G.:

My underlying point, made several times in previous posts on several threads — mentioning that to explain that I’m being brief to avoid repetition, not suggesting that you are obligated to have seen them — is that we, you and I, a plethora of others on both sides of the increasingly hostile divide, need to shut up about the details (note, I’m including myself here), sit down and take a close look at what it means to be a citizen supporter of the First Amendment.

My second ‘graph, which you found confusing, refers to the fact that a loudly vocal minority is setting the terms of the hostility on the “conservative” side, and anyone even remotely resembling their identity labels will be lumped into the ire and sanctions aimed at them. I regret not making my tone clear there, you and Rod and many more don’t belong in that lumping, but will suffer from it nonetheless, and that outrages me. I’ve ditched many a fellow liberal over this, and will ditch many more. They are bent on revenge, good sir, and I will neither condone it nor hesitate to intervene verbally and bodily.

I wish to clarify my objection to your rhetorical choices. Of course no one is making those various behaviors mandatory, but I respectfully suggest that phrases like kowtowing to the principles/goals of the Sexual Revolution feeds the hostility. It is akin in my view to the perennial claims of U.S. Christians that they are being persecuted, going back more than a couple of decades now, and it is worse than whining to many ears. You can condemn without implying (or claiming!) victimhood. If “love the sinner while hating the sin” is your message goal, it’s being missed by a country mile.

My anecdotal insider view, keep a few grains of salt handy: they don’t give a damn that you agree with them. They want to suppress your speech, and obtain the right to punish it if you refuse to be silent. They are fed and urged by exactly those things aimed at them, both in the past and in present initiatives out of the Dept. of Justice and many state legislatures right now.