Cheer Up! The World Is Ending
I just finished a great breakfast in Miami, where folks who had been here for the National Conservatism conference are packing up to head home. I'll tell you about the good news ... after the bad news.
The bad news is that we are all in for very hard times, and soon. I have spoken to several people in a position to know these things, and the consensus is that global hyperinflation is on its way. The energy crisis in Europe is much worse than our media have been telling us. I saw this analysis in Legal Insurrection this morning, and it reflects exactly what I've heard from European insiders these past few days. Excerpt:
I am telling you people that the situation in #Europe is much worse than many understand. We are essentially on the brink of another banking crisis, a collapse of our industrial base and households, and thus on the brink of the collapse of our economies. Short thread. 1/4
We are also totally at the mercy of the authorities, and we have very little knowledge what they have planned. Will they be able to stop the onset of the banking crisis, yet again? I don’t know, but I am doubtful. 2/
In any case the speed of deterioration is massive now, and it’s only a matter of time, when markets catch up. I am betting that we still have few weeks (months at max.) before “mayhem” truly begins. Take precautionary measures. Stock:
4. Wood (if you have a stove).
5. Other necessities.
No harm will come from preparation, if somehow miraculously we can avoid the onset of an outright economic collapse. You just have more cash (no meaningful interest in banks), food, water and wood. 4/4
Let me repeat: I am hearing much the same thing from people in a position to know. When I brought up the threat of global hyperinflation in the next year in conversation with an economist, she didn't hesitate to say, "Yes, it's coming, for sure." She said that when government price caps on energy fail, as they inevitably will, that's when it will begin.
Prime Minister Orban's words from this summer -- his warning that governments will fall in Europe because of events this winter -- were very much front to my mind these past few days. Everything I heard here supports that grim prediction. Nobody knows where it will start, but it's coming. And if it happens to Europe, don't think for a second that America will be unaffected. Remember, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a single New York investment bank, helped trigger the global economic crash of 2008. In a globalized economy, no nation is an island.
Bearing this in mind, I've been thinking about all the activists, politicians, media figures, and educators who have spent the last two decades exploiting and widening society's social divisions, for the sake of power. They have made us distrustful of each other, and of institutions -- and on the institutional front, they have earned their distrust. Now the bill is shortly coming due. For the first time, I was hearing talk of social collapse and civil war from people who aren't wide-eyed conspiracy theorists. I was just talking in the hotel lobby with a plugged-in European friend who lamented that European countries are largely governed by ideologues who believe their own propaganda. One man I spoke with, an American, said that Hungary will probably be the best off of all the European countries in the coming crisis because it is governed by a prime minister who sees things realistically, and acts. Said this man, "Viktor Orban is that rare European leader who puts the interest of his people above the ideology of the ruling class. But even that might not be enough. We'll see."
We will. I have been struck by how many people from this country and abroad approached me at NatCon to say that they finally get The Benedict Option. One man in particular, a person with a global reach, told me that the Ben Op is the only hope for Christians in the darkness about to overtake us. I knew he wasn't just flattering me, because for days I've been listening to people from all over talk about what they see coming, and talking in detail. Not conspiracy-theorizing, but based on practical realities, having to do with inflation and energy. The national security state and the World Economic Forum types will exploit this crisis -- and we have to be prepared for them. More than that, even, we have to be prepared to care for our families and our local communities. Over and over, that's the message: go local, now. Not tomorrow -- right now. I've passed on to conversation partners this week what I heard from some French Catholic friends who live in a village in France: that the local people no longer have faith that their government will be able to help or protect them in the coming crisis -- which will also be a crisis of food and water -- so they've already started building a strong local network. Every time I've brought that up, the people to whom I've been speaking nod vigorously. Americans and Europeans both.
I can't stress strongly enough: now is the time to prepare, spiritually, morally, and materially. It is August 1914.
So why do I say, "Cheer up"? Because of conversations like I had with a fairly well known conservative thinker and writer, who told me that he was raised atheist, but is on the path to conversion to Christianity. Why? He said that the things he has witnessed unfolding in the world in the past five years have convinced him that spiritual evil is real ... and that this has pushed him towards God. That man said it most openly, but I've heard things like that these past few days: that people who are already believers -- Jews and Christians both -- have become more spiritually committed and serious as the days have grown dark. I had a great breakfast this morning with a young Protestant couple who live in Washington, and who were telling me about things going on in their communities, fighting to reclaim corrupt institutions, and to build networks of the committed faithful for future action.
The husband told me that so many of the activists -- even those with Ivy educations -- came from a homeschooling background. This has given them both the resources they need to understand the corruption in our institutions and national life (that is, they've had a real education, not simply preparing worker drones for the Empire), and having been homeschooled means they were formed with a countercultural sensibility. This is hopeful! I told this two at the end that it was their generation (they looked to be in their late 20s), not mine, that's going to make the difference. Too many Christians in my X generation can't bring themselves to accept that the Empire can no longer be shored up, and that the survival of ourselves and our civilization is going to require hiving off into communities that can keep faith and the Western tradition alive through the advancing night. This does not mean heading for the hills! But it does mean going hyperlocal, and forming groups like Father Kolakovic did in 1940s Slovakia. You regular readers will know that Father Tomislav Kolakovic was a Catholic priest who escaped the Nazis and set up in his mother's homeland, Slovakia, in 1943. He taught his students at the Catholic university in Bratislava that the Germans were bound to lose the war, but that the Soviets would be ruling their country when it was over -- and that the first thing the Communist lackeys of Moscow would do would be to persecute the Church. From Live Not By Lies:
Father Kolaković knew that the clericalism and passivity of traditional Slovak Catholicism would be no match for communism. For one thing, he correctly foresaw that the communists would try to control the church by subduing the clergy. For another, he understood that the spiritual trials awaiting believers under communism would put them to an extreme test. The charismatic pastor preached that only a total life commitment to Christ would enable them to withstand the coming trial.
“Give yourself totally to Christ, throw all your worries and desires on him, for he has a wide back, and you will witness miracles,” the priest said, in the recollection of one disciple.
Giving oneself totally to Christ was not an abstraction or a pious thought. It needed to be concrete, and it needed to be communal. The total destruction of the First World War opened the eyes of younger Catholics to the need for a new evangelization. A Belgian priest named Joseph Cardijn, whose father had been killed in a mining accident, started a lay movement to do this among the working class. These were the Young Christian Workers, called “Jocists” after the initials of their name in French. Inspired by the Jocist example, Father Kolaković adapted it to the needs of the Catholic Church in German-occupied Slovakia. He established cells of faithful young Catholics who came together for prayer, study, and fellowship.
The refugee priest taught the young Slovak believers that every person must be accountable to God for his actions. Freedom is responsibility, he stressed; it is a means to live within the truth. The motto of the Jocists became the motto for what Father Kolaković called his “Family”: “See. Judge. Act.” See meant to be awake to realities around you. Judge was a command to discern soberly the meaning of those realities in light of what you know to be true, especially from the teachings of the Christian faith. After you reach a conclusion, then you are to act to resist evil.
Václav Vaško, a Kolaković follower, recalled late in his life that Father Kolaković’s ministry excited so many young Catholics because it energized the laity and gave them a sense of leadership responsibility.
“It is remarkable how Kolaković almost instantly succeeded in creating a community of trust and mutual friendship from a diverse grouping of people (priests, religious and lay people of different ages, education, or spiritual maturity),” Vaško wrote.
The Family groups came together at first for Bible study and prayer, but soon began listening to Father Kolaković lecture on philosophy, sociology, and intellectual topics. Father Kolaković also trained his young followers in how to work secretly, and to withstand the interrogation that he said would surely come.
The Family expanded its small groups quickly across the nation. “By the end of the school year 1944,” Vaško said, “it would have been difficult to find a faculty or secondary school in Bratislava or larger cities where our circles did not operate.”
In 1946, Czech authorities deported the activist priest. Two years later, communists seized total power, just as Father Kolaković had predicted. Within several years, almost all of the Family had been imprisoned and the Czechoslovak institutional church brutalized into submission. But when the Family members emerged from prison in the 1960s, they began to do as their spiritual father had taught them. Father Kolaković’s top two lieutenants—physician Silvester Krčméry and priest Vladimír Jukl—quietly set up Christian circles around the country and began to build the underground church.
The underground church, led by the visionary cleric’s spiritual children and grandchildren, became the principle means of anti-communist dissent for the next forty years. It was they who organized a mass 1988 public demonstration in Bratislava, the Slovak capital, demanding religious liberty. The Candle Demonstration was the first major protest against the state. It kicked off the Velvet Revolution, which brought down the communist regime a year later. Though Slovak Christians were among the most persecuted in the Soviet Bloc, the Catholic Church there thrived in resistance because one man saw what was coming and prepared his people.
The passivity and middle-class conformism of most American Christian churches will not be enough to withstand what's coming. The preoccupation so many conservative Christians have with MAGA and election fraud is a total distraction, as is the preoccupation of normie bourgeois Christians with trying to winsomely rationalize their way into blessing race, sex, and gender radicalism, so as not to lose their status in the late imperial order. What is headed our way is far, far too serious. We cannot wait for our spiritual leaders to act. Take initiative yourself. Father Kolakovic is speaking to us all today.
I gave a grim talk about the need for religious believers to prepare ourselves for what is to come. I emphasized the need to be ready to suffer. That's never going to be popular with a crowd, but I am absolutely convinced that it's true. Besides, God can use that for renewal. Once more, from Live Not By Lies:
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Though he was only a toddler when the Velvet Revolution ended totalitarianism in his country, Timo Križka knows about the suffering of Christians under communism better than most. The Bratislava photographer and filmmaker’s great-grandfather, a Greek Catholic priest, was forced out of ministry in the 1950s for refusing the government’s order to convert to the Orthodox Church, which at that time was under Soviet control. That priest, Father Michal Durišin, chose a life of suffering for himself and his family, rather than stain his conscience.
Several years ago, Križka set out to honor his ancestor’s sacrifice by interviewing and photographing the still-living Slovak survivors of communist persecution, including original members of Father Kolaković’s fellowship, the Family. As he made his rounds around his country, Križka was shaken up not by the stories of suffering he heard—these he expected—but by the intense inner peace radiating from these elderly believers.
These men and women had been around Križka’s age when they had everything taken from them but their faith in God. And yet, over and over, they told their young visitor that in prison they found inner liberation through suffering. One Christian, separated from his wife and five children and cast into solitary confinement, testified that he had moments then that were “like paradise.”
“It seemed that the less they were able to change the world around them, the stronger they had become,” Križka tells me. “These people completely changed my understanding of freedom. My project changed from looking for victims to finding heroes. I stopped building a monument to the unjust past. I began to look for a message for us, the free people.”
The message he found was this: The secular liberal ideal of freedom so popular in the West, and among many in his postcommunist generation, is a lie. That is, the concept that real freedom is found by liberating the self from all binding commitments (to God, to marriage, to family), and by increasing worldly comforts—that is a road that leads to hell. Križka observed that the only force in society standing in the middle of that wide road yelling “Stop!” were the traditional Christian churches.
And then it hit him.
“With our eyes fixed intently on the West, we could see how it was beginning to experience the same things we knew from the time of totalitarianism,” he tells me. “Once again, we are all being told that Christian values stand in the way of the people having a better life. History has already shown us how far this kind of thing can go. We also know what to do now, in terms of making life decisions.”
From his interviews with former Christian prisoners, Križka also learned something important about himself. He had always thought that suffering was something to be escaped. Yet he never understood why the easier and freer his professional and personal life became, his happiness did not commensurately increase. His generation was the first one since the Second World War to know liberty—so why did he feel so anxious and never satisfied?
These meetings with elderly dissidents revealed a life-giving truth to the seeker. It was the same truth it took Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn a tour through the hell of the Soviet gulag to learn.
“Accepting suffering is the beginning of our liberation,” he says. “Suffering can be the source of great strength. It gives us the power to resist. It is a gift from God that invites us to change. To start a revolution against the oppression. But for me, the oppressor was no longer the totalitarian communist regime. It’s not even the progressive liberal state. Meeting these hidden heroes started a revolution against the greatest totalitarian ruler of all: myself.”
There it is: the hope. The hope is not that we can avoid suffering, though of course none of us wants to endure it. We don't get a say in the matter, unless we want to sell our souls (and even then it might not be enough). The gift of suffering -- the thing that led Solzhenitsyn to say, "Bless you, prison" -- is that it reveals God's mercy to us. It can set us free, as Timo found. Or it can destroy us. For Christians, hope is not optimism; hope is rather the sure knowledge that there is ultimate meaning in our suffering.The choice is ours -- and it's a choice all of us are going to face, very soon.
Winter is coming. Prepare.