The University of Notre Dame will cover up a series of murals depicting Christopher Columbus amid backlash over the paintings’ stereotypical and inaccurate portrayal of Native Americans and their relationship with white European explorers, the school announced.
The 12 murals, painted by Luigi Gregori in the 1880s, adorn the entrance of the university’s Main Building, a busy throughway that houses administration offices and some classrooms, in South Bend, Indiana.
At the time of their creation, the paintings were intended to empower Catholic immigrants in America, but their message whitewashes the catastrophic impact European explorers had on native peoples, Notre Dame President John Jenkins wrote in a letter to members of the school’s community on Saturday.
Here’s the entire letter from Father Jenkins, the ND president. Matthew Schmitz observes:
“Columbus’s arrival brought, for these peoples … repression of vibrant cultures”
—Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.https://t.co/PRNqz7OFql
— Matthew Schmitz (@matthewschmitz) January 22, 2019
So: at Notre Dame, you can’t see images of Columbus, but you can still watch hardcore pornography on the university’s WiFi system. Good to know. If only Columbus were depicted celebrating diversity in the sack with the natives, he might stage a comeback…
But seriously, this is disgraceful. It is possible to recognize the complexity of the European coming to the New World without abominating our ancestors. And necessary to!
Well, I’m wrapping up things in Dublin, sitting now at the airport waiting to board flight to the US. Had a great, great time here with new friends. Gave a Ben Op talk tonight at University Church, introduced by the great Irish journalist John Waters, to a packed house. I have a lot to tell you all about what I’ve seen and done here in Ireland, and still a lot to tell about Spain. Maybe I’ll have the chance to get caught up on some blogging on the long flight back, if they have wifi. If not tomorrow, then later this week — it’ll be good to get back into the rhythm of things.
I’ve been so busy here that I’ve not been able to follow the continuing fallout over the Covington Catholic boys and the terrifying thing that has happened to them. We now know that Nathan Phillips, the elderly Native American guy, flat-out lied about what happened — and the media fell for it. The Covington boys became international hate figures instantly (I say “international” because people here in Dublin were talking about it).
They were not guilty. At all. And yet, the moral insanity of this story continues to astonish. Here’s a tweet by a New York Times editor on January 20:
— Tina Jordan (@TinaJordanNYT) January 20, 2019
That was two days ago. She has neither retracted it nor apologized. Read the commentary she praises, written by black novelist Marlon James. He denounces the smiling boy as a white supremacist monster because the boy stood there doing nothing but smiling nervously.
Saturday was a day of liberal vindication. See! This is what those people do! This is who they really are. Reza Aslan, the religious scholar, tweeted a photo of the main Covington boy and asked, “Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?” The filmmaker Michael Green showed the same image and tweeted: “A face like that never changes. This image will define his life. No one need ever forgive him.”
The institutions in charge of serving the boys did what institutions always do in the face of a social media mob. They cratered. The school and archdiocese apologized. The mayor of Covington denounced them.
On Sunday several longer videos emerged showing that most of what Phillips had told the media was inaccurate. The incident actually started when members of the hate cult — the Black Hebrew Israelites — started hurling racist and homophobic slurs at the boys.
The Covington boys eventually asked their chaperone if they could do their school cheers. As they were doing that Phillips walked into the middle of their circle and banged his drum in the face of one of the boys. Everybody was suddenly confused. Students shouted, “What is going on?” Then there was confusion and discomfort, smirking and verbal jousting.
Everybody involved in the incident was operating in an emotional and moral context that has been set by the viciousness of the Black Hebrew Israelites. Of the major players, the boys’ behavior is probably the least egregious.
So Sunday was a day of conservative vindication. See? This is what those liberals do! They rush to judgment, dehumanize and seek to expunge us from national life. The main boy wrote a public letter that was consistent with the visual evidence and that was actually quite humane.
In this case the facts happened to support the right-wing tribe. But that’s not the point. The crucial thing is that the nation’s culture is now enmeshed in a new technology that we don’t yet know how to control.
He’s right … but it is a valid and important point that this is what many powerful liberals do. I was telling my Irish friends last night that it’s impossible to overstate how powerful this event is going to be for right-of-center Americans. It’s even more powerful than the Kavanaugh debacle, in terms of showing how so many progressive elites are driven by vicious contempt for those not like themselves — especially white male Christians. It’s not a crime to dislike preppy white Catholic boys in MAGA hats. But to attempt to destroy them, on the basis of faked “evidence”?
I would like to remind our left-wing friends that when Trump is re-elected in 2020 on the strength of votes by people who have been frightened by the prospects of liberals and progressives in power, think of the Covington boys, and what was done to them. As in the Kavanagh mob action, the left tried to destroy because the hate figures symbolized people they loathe: white, male, Christian conservatives. At least in the Kavanaugh case, there was a chance that he was actually guilty. It took almost no time to prove that these boys were not guilty. And yet, even after evidence vindicated them, many on the left continue the hatred. Because it feels so good.
What kind of parent would let his or her kids go to the March For Life now, knowing that next year, left-wing provocateurs will no doubt be crawling through the crowd, trying to instigate incidents that they can film and exploit to destroy lives? Brooks is right: this technology is destroying the possibility of public life.
In the cab from the hotel to the airport, I got in touch with my inner Thomas Friedman, and talked to the cab driver, an older white Irishman. He told me that he thinks Donald Trump is “a dangerous man,” but “I’ll tell you, political correctness has gone too far. He’s right about that.” Get this: an Irish cab driver doesn’t like Trump at all, but thinks he’s necessary, because the forces lined up against him are too powerful and malign. This morning, at least, I have come around to his way of thinking. Yesterday, someone made the point in my hearing that Trump has no regard at all for the truth, but the Buzzfeed report the other day, and now the national left-wing freakout over the Fake News of the Covington Catholic boys shows that despite its pretensions, many liberal elites don’t care for the truth either.
The cab driver talked about the Yellow Vests protests in France. He said they’re starting in Ireland, but he doesn’t know how far they’ll go. “We’ve got to do something in this country,” he said. “The people who run it are ruining the place. The inequality is something. They’re only out for themselves.” He denounced the ruling class bitterly.
“It could lead to a civil war,” he said. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. I asked him if he would join the Yellow Vests if they got going in Ireland.
“Yes,” he said.
More later, from the plane, I hope.
Good morning from Dublin. It is really interesting to observe US public controversies from outside the American bubble. I am startled by the massive controversy that has erupted over the Covington (KY) Catholic school boys and the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, in the aftermath of the March For Life. Several video clips of the confrontation between an elder of the Omaha tribe and a large group of Catholic high school boys wearing MAGA hats have gone viral. Here’s a news story about the video, summing up the basics of the controversy.
A selected part of the clip shows boys jumping and hooting and acting in a somewhat intimidating way towards the older man, as if to mock him. Some people interpret the boy standing in front of the man, the kid with a rictus grin, as sneering at the old man. Others say that you can’t assume that was a sneer; maybe the kid just didn’t know what to do.
In any case, the Catholic school has apologized for its students’ action, and the mayor of their hometown has denounced them. The boys were in town for the March For Life. The video is being widely cited as an example of the Trumpification of Christianity, and connected to the Karen Pence school controversy as yet another example of why conservative Christianity is an evil that must be driven from the precincts of the decent.
It is possible that the Catholic boys were complete asses. My initial judgment was that they certainly were that. You don’t treat a peaceful elderly person like this. Even if they thought he was wrong, those boys owed him respect. Yes, the old man approached them, but they could and should have handled him with respect. They come off as bullies.
But then I watched more clips, showing the greater context of the incident. It is not as simple as it has been portrayed. Below is a more complete video account of what happened. In it, one of the Catholic boys is overheard asking, “Does anybody know what he’s doing? Does anybody know what’s going on here.”
And, in it, one of the Indians with Phillips shouts: “White people, go back to Europe. This is not your land.” He curses the students with f-bombs (video is NSFW). He goes on: “You’re being a white man about it. That’s all you know how to do.”
You didn’t see that in the news reporting, did you?
Then, at the 4:40 mark, members of an insane black radical cult called the Black Hebrews (I remember them from my DC days) starts ranting at the boys about whites and sodomy, and says that “your president is a homosexual.” He makes fun of Christian civilization, saying: “You give faggots rights!”
Watch it all here:
The online mob is starting to doxx those Catholic boys. One of them sent this to a local news channel (forgive my formatting problem; just read the text):
The other day, Sen. Ben Sasse authored a Senate declaration affirming that religious tests should not be imposed for public office. It passed without formal opposition from any senators, but Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, whose questioning whether or not a judicial nominee who had been a member of the “extreme” Knights Of Columbus, was fit for office, prompted the Sasse legislation — unofficially opposed it. She remarked that the Senate has more important things than to deal with such “alt-right” — her words — propaganda.
Mazie Hirono is becoming a leading voice for woke progressivism among Democrats. You might recall that during the Kavanaugh hearings, she said that men ought to “shut up.” She doesn’t seem to be all that clever, so you might find her easy to dismiss. But the important thing to observe here is that she characterizes something as anodyne as saying that there should be no religious tests for public office (and, by extension, that the proposal she and fellow Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris floated about a judicial nominee’s potential disqualification for having been a Knight of Columbus) as an “alt-right” position. I’m seeing this more and more from the left: the demonization of mainstream Christianity (when it conflicts with progressive ideals) as “alt-right,” and beyond the pale of decency.
Consider the point raised by CNN host John King, nobody’s idea of a left-wing propagandist. He’s talking about Karen Pence and her role as a teacher at a conservative Evangelical school:
“Does it matter all taxpayers pay for her housing? All taxpayers pay for her Secret Service protection? It’s not her fault she needs protection, this is the world we live in. But all taxpayers subsidize her life. Does it matter?”
Hey, he’s just asking!
No, it does not matter, and a reporter not be asking questions about whether or not our leaders and their families deserve Secret Service protection if, in the exercise of their constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty, they offend progressives. The fact that this question even occurred to John King (or his producers) is a big tell: it shows how disconnected these media elites are from the lives of ordinary American believers. The kind of policy that employees of Pence’s school had to sign are extremely common in Catholic and Evangelical schools, though obviously not universal.
That it would occur to King that US taxpayers perhaps shouldn’t subsidize security for a conservative Christian leader under these circumstances also shows that the LGBT cause is the absolute telos of American liberalism. Think about it: is there another salient political issue that would cause someone like John King to ask this kind of question?
These are signs of how radical the times are becoming, and how fast. I remember back in the misty forests of 2006 or thereabouts, we all received assurances from liberals that once gay marriage was passed, that would be the end of it. When conservatives talked about the likelihood that Christians would end up facing serious discrimination under a gay-rights regime, we were told that we were paranoid — though let’s be honest here, you haters have it coming. Hence the Law Of Merited Impossibility: “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”
Now, here we are, with the vice president’s wife excoriated for teaching art to children in an Evangelical private school that has the audacity to expect its employees to pledge to live by orthodox Christian sexual morality. To be clear, it is not necessarily the case that legalized gay marriage requires the expansion of anti-Christian bigotry. The existence of Christian schools that uphold orthodox Christian sexual morality prevents no gays or lesbians from marrying, nor does it prevent them from going about their lives. How many gay or lesbian parents, or parents of a child who identified as the opposite gender, would be interested in sending their children to a conservative Evangelical school anyway?
But that is not the point. Remember Memories Pizza, the small-town Indiana restaurant that became an object of a national Three-Minute Hate after its Evangelical owner, asked by a TV reporter if he would cater a same-sex wedding, said no, he would not. How many couples, gay or otherwise, would have asked a small-town pizza parlor to cater their wedding? That’s not the point. The point is that these heretics exist at all in the public square. Ergo, burn the bigot!
I am, by now, tired of printing comments in this space from people on the left saying, one way or another, that we need to remember that Christians were once vicious bullies to gays and others unlike themselves (and I’m not going to publish them anymore, by the way). Well, even if true, isn’t it a good thing that we have arrived at a point in our pluralistic society where nearly all of us agree that gay people should not be bullied? I think so! But we see clearly now that many people on the left, gay and straight alike, believe that the sins of Christians entitles them to bully out of vengeance.
Which brings me to the title of this post. As regular readers know, I’ve spent the last eight days in Spain. One of the most remarkable things I’ve observed is the degree to which Spanish society is still badly divided against itself over the legacy of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). I wrote a few blog posts about the Spanish Civil War just before I came to Spain (you can find them in the archives of this blog), and everything I subsequently learned on the ground confirmed and deepened what I had learned from books and film.
I won’t recount that history in this post (you’re welcome), but let it suffice to say that contrary to what most of us Americans know about the Spanish conflict — if we know anything about it at all — is wildly unbalanced. We have the idea that a democratically elected liberal republic was sabotaged by a right-wing nationalist rebellion blessed by the Catholic Church. The outcome of the war was a nearly four-decade right-wing dictatorship led by Gen. Francisco Franco.
Those are the bare facts, but the whole truth is far more complicated. Americans don’t readily understand that 19th century liberalism in continental Europe was a distinctly different phenomenon than it was in Britain and America. European liberalism was fiercely, even violently, anticlerical. When the Second Spanish Republic was declared in 1931, it was indeed a liberal republic — and its lawmakers immediately began attacking the Catholic Church, trying to root it out of all aspects of life.
Shortly after the declaration of the Republic, left-wing mobs burned churches and convents throughout Spain, as police officers of the Republic stood by and watched. Learning this from the history books before coming to Spain was news to me. I knew that there had been anti-Christian atrocities in Spain, but I assumed that they all happened during the 1936-39 war. Previously I had no idea that they had been encouraged and permitted by liberals and left-wing allies both inside and outside the government.
The burning of the churches — the initial burning; it happened many, many more times — was profoundly shocking to Catholic Spain. It started a chain reaction of recriminations, and counter-recriminations, that eventually resulted in a military rebellion against the government. Thus, three years of savage war, with atrocities on both sides. Neither side had clean hands. Despite the mounting violence between 1931 and 1935, the coming of a shooting war caught Spaniards by surprise. A professor told me last night, “If you read the papers from the time right up to the war, you would not have expected what came next.”
What would have happened had the Spanish liberals in 1931 not immediately set about attacking the Church? For that matter, what if Spanish conservatives had been more willing to embrace reforms that would have loosened the grip of the Church and landowning elites on Spanish society (which was, in the main, rather poor)? Would they have avoided war, and dictatorship? Make no mistake: had the Republican side defeated Franco and his nationalists, the result would have been a Communist dictatorship, as the Soviets, who backed the Republican side, and their agents in the Spanish Communist Party were planning. Democracy was never going to survive this war.
The point I want to make is this: the ideologically-driven anti-Christian aggression of the Spanish Republican Left eventually drove Christians into the arms of a military man who turned into a dictator. Over and over on this Spanish trip, I heard Catholics say some version of: Franco may have been bad, but at least he didn’t want to kill us. What choice did we have?
The Left lost the first war, but from a Catholic point of view, ultimately triumphed. Spain has mostly de-Christianized. The Catholic Church is a shell of its former self — this, according to Spanish Catholics with whom I talked in every city I visited. It was remarkable to me — astonishing, really — to encounter in these ordinary lay Catholics deep anger at Catholic institutions (the bishops, many clergy, Catholic schools). I saw this over and over. In general, the message I received from Catholics who came to hear my talks went like this:
- Catholics have little say in the Spanish public square, and their bishops are giving them no leadership, even as both state and institutions of mainstream culture further marginalize and even demonize Catholicism. “Our bishops act like Spain is still a Catholic country,” one man said, denouncing the bishops’ complacency. Others complained that bishops and most of the clergy behave as if they regard their jobs as managing decline. Put bluntly, these lay Spanish Catholics say that the Church in Spain is in an emergency situation, but their leadership refuses to recognize it and act accordingly.
- It’s not only the leadership. One priest told me, of his fellow Catholics, “People think that immigration and Islam are our biggest problems. The real problem is that we are spiritually mediocre. We aren’t converted. We aren’t evangelizing.”
- The Catholic schools in the country are, by the accounts I heard, a disaster. One woman said, “The best way for your children to lose the Catholic faith is to send them to Catholic schools.” It’s not true for all Catholic schools, but, as another woman put it, “When it comes to schools, the name ‘Catholic’ doesn’t mean anything.”
- With institutional Catholicism in an advanced state of decadence, and the left-liberal state ramping up its attacks on religion, a small but determined number of lay Catholics are looking for a self-generated alternative. This is why some of them are looking to The Benedict Option for inspiration as they attempt to figure out what to do on their own, under Spanish conditions (which, for example, forbid homeschooling).
- There is no political solution here. There is no Catholic strongman waiting in the wings. There’s a new populist party, Vox, which has been widely denounced in the mainstream media as “far right.” In fact, one well-informed observer of both the US and Spanish political scenes told me that Vox is mostly to the left of the US Republican Party. Vox opposes Spain’s permissive immigration scheme, it opposes attacks on religion, and it opposes the state’s attempt to impose gender ideology. For this, they are attacked by the Spanish media as the vanguard of fascism. Even if Vox were to come to power and stop the state’s oppression of Spanish Catholics, that would not mean the revival of the Spanish church!
For the entirety of the Franco dictatorship — from 1939, until his death in 1975 — the Catholic Church enjoyed a privileged position in Spanish public life. After Franco, it all collapsed. This is the danger of relying on a political solution. One older man told me that in the 1950s, when he was a boy, the teaching of religion in Spain was by rote. There was no life in it. We didn’t get to talk about it in depth, but it’s not hard to imagine that the Spanish church grew fat and complacent, and came to see its role as more or less managers of the Sacrament Factory, whose monopoly was protected and enforced by the dictatorial state. Those American Catholics who believe integralism is the answer for the problems of liberalism ought to come to Spain and see what Franco’s legacy has been for the faith.
One young Catholic on this trip told me, “I wonder if it might have been better off for us if Franco had lost the war.” My sense is that that is a minority opinion among Spanish Catholics, but nevertheless, this man’s view that a communist persecution might have made the Church more vital, in the end, is worth contemplating. Sadly, looking at the churches of Eastern Europe (Poland the obvious exception), it’s hard to see how Spain-As-Cuba would have resulted in an outcome much different from what Spain is today. Still, it’s stunning to consider that nearly four decades of a right-wing authoritarian Catholic dictatorship has resulted in a collapse of the Catholic faith that’s not a lot better than how the faith fared under a similar period of left-wing totalitarian anti-Christian dictatorship in other European countries.
What are the lessons for us Americans? There are two broad ones. First, let me set limits on the analogy. The divisions in US society are not nearly as deep and as hostile as they were in Spain in the modern era, even long before the Second Republic. We will not see church-burning, for example.
But the historical analogy is still useful. Which brings me to the first lesson:
Progressive persecution of religious, social, and cultural conservatives invites an authoritarian backlash. The Spanish Civil War happened in part because Spanish leftists — including liberals (that is to say: not communists or socialists) — were fanatically committed to demonizing Christians, both using the power of the state, and within civil society. The anti-Christian attacks turned violent. Eventually, Christians pushed back. They sought protection in a right-wing authoritarian leader, not just because Franco was a protector of Christians, but because he also defended their concept of the nation.
We have already seen, in the example of Trump, that conservative Christians will embrace politically a bad man, not because they have any love for him but because unlike left-wing leaders, he doesn’t despise them, and seek to demonize them. Hear me: Donald Trump is no Francisco Franco. But the American left ought to understand that even though they have won the culture war, their insistence on bouncing the rubble is going to radicalize religious and social conservatives even further. It’s not just religious people. This insane talk on the left demonizing “white males,” and men in general, sends a clear and alarming signal to whites and men about what Democrats will do to them when they take full power.
It is incredible that the left can’t see this. In the media constantly we hear this kind of messaging:
“White men are bad. White men are bad. White men are bad. White men are bad. White men are bad. White men are bad. White men are bad. Especially white Christian men — they’re the worst.”
“Hey! We are not bad! Or, if we’re bad, it’s not because we’re white, male, and/or Christian. Stop saying that!”
“Ah ha! See how they react from a place of white male privilege!”
A side note: a case could be made, I think, for the contemporary American right wing to take a lesson from the run-up Spanish Civil War, and pay closer attention to the economic plight of the poor and the working class. In pre-Civil War Spain, the landowners resisted attempts at land reform to give the poor masses some economic stability and stake in the future. Poverty and hopelessness was fuel on the fire of left-wing radicalism. In our own time and place, Tucker Carlson tried to make this point to fellow conservatives: that if we don’t realize that our Reagan-era free market nostrums are insufficient to meet the needs of many Americans in our globalized, technically advanced economy, we are going to end up driving people to vote for socialism.
For now, the Right is fortunate that the Left is so obsessed with racial, sexual, and cultural identity politics that it severely limits the appeal of radical leftist economics. But that may not be the case for ever.
The second lesson: for religious conservatives, a political solution is a chimera.
Franco’s victory was a more thorough from a socially conservative point of view than anything a contemporary American religious conservative could dream up. Conservatives controlled everything, and suppressed the opposition for decades. The Church had carte blanche in Spanish society. And yet, today Spanish Christianity is flat on its back. In fact, many (fairly or not) hate Catholicism precisely because of its close affiliation with Franco.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see that this is coming for the American church. Many of us embraced Trump enthusiastically. Other believers embraced him reluctantly, purely as self-defense, because as unpleasant as he is, at least he doesn’t want to drive us out of the public square.
I think this was, and remains, probably the right call. The Kavanaugh hysteria, and now the Karen Pence debacle, focus the mind on exactly how far the Left is willing to go to make us conservatives into hate figures. Still — and pay attention to this — there will be a huge price to pay in post-Trump America for believers’ perceived collaboration with Trump. I’m not saying that this is fair (it’s not); I’m saying that it’s going to happen, and we had better be ready for it.
The best that we Christians can hope for politics is that our politicians can hope for is that they can and will protect our freedom to run our own institutions, our businesses, and our lives, as much as is possible. But you cannot legislate against hatred in people’s hearts. Believing orthodox Christians in America will carry a heavy stigma from now on. I’ve explained all this in my book, so I won’t belabor that message here. My point is this: the rote catechesis, the tepid therapeutic deism of parish life, the feeble youth-group emotionalism, the gimmicky messaging of megachurchery — these aspects of popular Christian life in America are failing to prepare us and our children for what is coming.
If you were a faithful Catholic living in Madrid in 1968, you might have thought you and your children, and your grandchildren, were safe. The rest of the world might be convulsing under the strain of cultural revolution, but the Church and the Caudillo kept things well in order in Spain. That world fell apart almost overnight. It is possible that Spanish Catholicism could have done a much better job of formation of its young, so that the faith would be more resilient in the post-Franco years. Possible, though human beings being what they are, improbable.
There’s no turning back the clock for Spain, but what we American Christians can learn from the church’s bitter experience there is to quit being complacent about the present and the future.
If progressives in America push too hard, and economic conditions are just right, the years ahead may bring about an American Franco — that is to say, a right-wing authoritarian leader who demolishes democracy, and rules by decree. This leader, should he arise, will be popular with half the country — as was Franco during and immediately after the war — and will be despised by the other half. Will he be Christian? I doubt it very much, but like Trump, who is at best a nominal Christian, he may win the allegiance of Christians because the alternative is church burning (which I mean in a metaphorical sense, mostly). It is not unthinkable that the culture war, and a deeply distressed economy — remember, the early 1930s were a time of global economic depression — could produce a Yankee caudillo.
This is not something any of us conservatives should desire! And heaven knows that it would be a nightmare beyond all telling for liberals and leftists. I deeply wish that the mainstream left — the media, Democratic politicians, academics — would get a freaking grip on itself, and understand exactly what kind of demons it is calling forth. Franco didn’t come from nowhere.
But I also deeply wish that American Christians would recognize that our strength in American culture, political and otherwise, is superficial, and politics alone cannot sustain what has decayed from within. Read the statistics in my book, or go find some of sociologist Christian Smith’s writing about American religious belief, especially among the young. The cheap nationalism and spiritual mediocrity of the small-o orthodox American churches are producing a generation whose faith will crumble to dust.
In a speech I gave at a conservative Evangelical college once, I talked about the importance of developing practices and habits in the Christian life. This is called formation. After my speech, a young woman in the audience stood to say she didn’t understand this at all. What’s wrong with loving Jesus with all your heart? I told her that this is of course what we all have to do, but “love” is not an emotion. We have to train ourselves to obey Him (“If you love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said), even when it’s difficult, and costs us something. Dying to oneself, and one’s own desires, is hard, and it takes practice. The transforming grace of God is freely given, but if we don’t spiritually discipline ourselves through developing habits and practices, we will remain closed off to it, and will always be spiritual juveniles.
She genuinely didn’t get what I was saying. I don’t think she was a bad person at all. I think this was simply alien talk. After the event, a professor there took me aside and told me that that young woman’s remarks represented the way 99 percent of the students at that college approach the faith. They’re the products of youth group culture — cheerful, enthusiastic, and truly love Jesus. But the moment they go out into the real world, and someone tells them that what Christians believe is mean, they collapse. For them, the faith has only been a matter of emotion and relationships; there is little if any intellectual content, and certainly no real formation in habits that would give them the ability to withstand hatred or any other kind of suffering for the faith.
You’ve heard this from me a thousand million times, so I’ll stop. It’s just that having left Spain, where I met with many deeply devout Christian believers, men and women who are beset by oppression outside the Church, and malaise and demoralization inside the Church, I see our American Christian future, coming at us fast, and it scares me. But it doesn’t paralyze me. It energizes me. Staying involved in politics, if only to protect our religious liberties, is necessary, but it is not remotely sufficient.
For that matter, look at Ireland. It was no dictatorship, but the Catholic Church nevertheless enjoyed a place of overwhelming privilege and power in Irish society, until pretty much the day before yesterday. And now, the faith has to a great degree collapsed. How did it happen? And where to go next for Irish Catholics? That is a story I will be learning about over these next couple of days in Dublin.
I don’t want to leave you on a depressing note. I spent an inspiring evening tonight in Dublin with Brian Kaller, the American expat and former journalist who writes the Restoring Mayberry blog, about resilience, rural life, and traditional culture. I’ve read Brian for years (and he has written a number of columns for TAC), and tonight, we finally met. The impressive thing about Brian, which you know if you read his blog, is that he does not want to sit around only lamenting what we’ve lost, but he wants to do practical things to prepare us for the future — materially, culturally, and spiritually. And he has thought very deeply about it. One day, he’s going to write a great book about all this, I’m sure.
As he drove me from the airport to my hotel in Dublin, Brian and I talked about what I had seen in Spain, and how moved I was by the faith and charity of the Spanish Catholics, and by their sense of siege. It’s a sense of siege that all of us Christians living in the post-Christian West, with a sense of awareness, feel, though it is far more acute for some than others. In response, Brian quoted Galadriel to me, from The Fellowship of the Ring:
“For the Lord of the Galadhrim is accounted the wisest of the Elves of Middle-Earth, and a giver of gifts beyond the power of kings. He has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains, and together through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat.”
We are fighting the long defeat, Brian said. But fight we must, because it is right. This guy, Brian, is a quiet warrior who, in an earlier era, would have been a mighty abbot. After we said goodnight, and thinking about our conversation — about the church, about politics, about the scouring of our own shire — I thought of this quote from Gandalf, which could have been said by Brian:
“Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”
There is real hope in that moral and spiritual realism. If you come out to hear me speak on Monday night in Dublin (8pm, University Church), be sure to stick around to meet Brian, who will be in the audience. Sometimes, I feel that my purpose in life is to point out people like Brian Kaller, and say, “Listen to them.”
I arrived back at my friends’ house in Madrid very late last night from Zaragoza, and fell asleep on my bed without even pulling back the covers. I had hoped to update the comments and catch you up on my adventures here, but as an elderly person who has been to five Spanish cities in five days, I couldn’t pull it off. I’m off shortly to the airport, and from there to Dublin. But I managed to write a post yesterday on the train. Here it is — and, begging your pardon, I’ll get to the comments as soon as I can.
So, after my speech Thursday night in Barcelona, someone in the audience asked me to talk about the differences between the US and Europe in terms of ability to accept and implement the Benedict Option. It was a great question, and I wish I had been quicker on my feet in giving a good answer.
America has an advantage in one big way: we are a more libertarian-minded country, with shallow roots — relative to Europe. Americans hate to think of ourselves as non-rooted, but any American who spends any time in Europe, and pays the least attention, will quickly grasp this fundamental difference between our societies.
For that matter, you can do it without leaving America. Having grown up in the South, the first time I went to Los Angeles, I was a bit overwhelmed. I felt that I might float off the edge of the continent. Everything seemed so new, so insubstantial. Depending on how you see the world, this could be a bug, or it could be a feature.
It is exhilarating to feel at liberty to remake yourself, without restraints – the past, family, custom, tradition – holding you down and holding you back. But it can also be profoundly alienating and dizzying. The realization that everything can be changed, and be remade overnight – well, that can give a man metaphysical vertigo. How can you learn to love a place that might not be there in a few years? Whether you are aware of it or not, that kind of physical place – architecture, urban design, etc – trains you to think that radical impermanence is the normal state of affairs, and that the only reality is the Self, disconnected from anything outside of itself. It trains you to think of everything outside your own head as being mere matter for the sake of your own consumption.
In one sense, it’s true. I was in the city of Barcelona yesterday. It has been there since Roman times, at least, but Barcelona is not eternal. A meteor strike could wipe it off the face of the earth. Not likely, but possible. The fact that the people of Barcelona can count on things looking tomorrow recognizably like they look today, and like they looked yesterday – there is a sense of peace in that continuity.
Barcelona does not look like it did in Roman times, obviously. But last night, as my friend Ricardo was walking me to dinner, he pointed out that the street along which we strolled had been the main road in Roman Barcelona. This is the kind of continuity, the kind of physical manifestation of a link with the past, that you simply cannot get in most of America. This is not because we are bad people; it’s because we are a young people, with all the virtues and all the faults of the young.
For many of us, going to Europe is the first time we have experienced the true realization of our Yankee ephemerality. In 1996, when my dad was 60 years old, I took him and my mom to visit friends in the Netherlands. It was the first and only time my folks had been to Europe. I remember two things about my father’s reaction to that trip: his stunned silence after leaving the Anne Frank House (he was near tears, and ready to shoot Nazis), and his simply being stunned when seeing part of a Roman ruin in Maastricht. There was nothing special about this ruin; in fact, I can’t even recall what it was. A wall or something. But it had been built by the Romans – the Romans! – and that was an incredible thought for an American. This is a thought that never, ever gets old for me, and makes me so very, very grateful for Europe. I feel about it like I felt about my dad: I have a sense of Roman pietas towards the place and its cultures.
Anyway, one big advantage we American Christians have over Europeans in Ben Op terms is an interior orientation towards change and innovation. For us, it is easier to imagine radical change (again, I’m speaking in relative terms.) And, as an Enlightenment nation, we have a First Amendment to our Constitution that protects freedom of speech and religion in ways that aren’t always present in European countries. I am sure that in the years to come, the First Amendment will be a metaphorical monastery wall behind which we Christians take refuge.
Second, we are not burdened by the heavy history between Church and State. The 19th century was a liberal century, but liberalism in the UK and the US was not anti-clerical (anti-Christian). This was exceedingly not the case in continental Europe, where liberalism took its cues from the French Revolution, and became violently anti-clerical. Spain is perhaps the most extreme example of this. In the 1930s, the proclamation of the liberal Republic led to immediate persecution of Christians, including the burning of churches and the murders of priests and nuns. After five years of civil conflict, an actual civil war began, and Nationalists (supporting the Church) committed atrocities against Republicans. The shooting stopped 80 years ago, but the fighting did not. It’s going on today in Spain. Those wounds have scarcely healed.
We Americans don’t have that legacy to live with, and work through. That is an advantage.
Otherwise, though, as far as I can see, Europe is much better prepared to accept and implement the Ben Op. Here’s why.
As I’ve said here many times, Europeans have lived through de-Christianization far more advanced than what we in the US have lived through. They typically don’t have to be convinced of the truth of the Benedict Option diagnosis. If you want to experience the American future, come to Europe and start talking to people about Christianity. Despite all the churches and material symbols of the faith, it has mostly faded away as a social reality.
European Christians – especially those 40 and under – know exactly how bad it can get in terms of Christianity’s disappearance, because this is their reality. They are more ready for radical action. It’s a general principle of human nature that young men are more willing to wage war because they lack investment in stability, emotional and otherwise. But that cuts both ways. It is also the case that the young may be more willing and able to see what’s really happening, and act in the face of new facts than their elders, who may feel that they have too much at stake in what is fundamentally a failing enterprise.
This is what I’ve seen in some of my Ben Op events in France, Italy, and other places on this side of the Atlantic. Christians my age (early 50s) and older tend to be much more cautious about the Ben Op, and appear (to me) to be trying to bargain with the post-Christian mainstream. It’s as if they believe that if only they show patience and friendliness to the post-Christian world, they can still participate fully in the social order. Put unkindly, they have a lot more investment in maintaining bourgeois respectability than the young. Professing orthodox Christianity – especially on issues of sex and sexuality – is offensive and gauche to the contemporary Western bourgeois.
The point is, European Christians are living through the end game. A Spaniard said to me this week, “We are used to looking to you Americans for the future. You are always ten or 20 years ahead of us. But maybe now we are ahead of you.” Exactly. We American Christians need to watch what our European coreligionists do. It’s going to be important for us to learn from them.
Second, insofar as the Benedict Option requires a return to Christian traditions, Europe still has a vast and incomparable treasure trove of material manifestations of tradition. Even if Europeans don’t believe in God, they still observe traditions, many of them Christian. I’ve been in Spain all week, and good grief, the traditions they have around cured ham are a wonder to behold. They are a thing of beauty, because the taste of this ham, and the way it is regarded by Spaniards of all kinds, symbolizes a very old culture. Jamon iberico tells them who they are. It might sound stupid to American ears to hear that (is cured ham really part of a people’s identity?) but it’s the truth. There are so many traditions like that in European culture; the idea of maintaining tradition is not alien to them.
Within 20 minutes of each other, I saw these two sights in Valencia that tell a similar story. The first is hand and wrist of St. Vicente, Martyr, preserved in a reliquary in the Valencia cathedral. He was the first Christian martyr of Spain. He died in Valencia, circa 304, under the persecution of Diocletian. He was tortured to death by the Romans for refusing to throw the Holy Scriptures onto a fire.
The second is a cured ham, sitting behind the counter at a cafe near the cathedral:
Understand: I’m not making a pun or a joke here. I mean what I say: these two artifacts — one sacred, the other profane — symbolize in the flesh what it means to be Spanish. Nothing like that exists for us Americans. Obviously the relic of San Vicente is something of infinitely greater meaning. The point I’m making here is that tradition — religious and cultural — is enfleshed in a place as old as Spain in a way that it is not in the US. Christians here can “touch” the hand of San Vicente Martyr, and feel a connection to the early Church in their own flesh. I find that extraordinarily inspiring to my Christian imagination. St. Vicente was here, worshiping Christ 1,700 years ago, and suffering for him. Christians still are. Here is a portrait from the same Valencia cathedral, in a side chapel near the relic of San Vicente, of some Valencian Christians martyred for the faith in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39):
These were ordinary believers, living in Valencia, who paid the ultimate price for their faith. I spoke last night to an academic who is studying a group of martyrs from the war. He said that one Christian was murdered because the left-wing Republicans said he “smelled too much of wax” — meaning that they could tell by his aroma that he had been in church. For that, they killed him. This is still within living memory of the oldest Spaniards. In Valencia, they remember these martyrs as they remember the martyr Vicente.
In terms of the Christian religion itself, Europeans are surrounded by cultural memories. There are monasteries, still. They’re not all solid ones (in Barcelona, at my talk, one man said, “You need to take a box of your books to that Benedictine monastery at Montserrat, and make all those monks read it.”) But some are. The Tipi Loschi, living on the Adriatic coast, make pilgrimages to Norcia, in the mountains about 90 minutes’ drive away, and have developed a close relationship with the traditionalist Benedictines there. In France, Christians can go to monasteries like Fontgombault for the Real Thing.
To be sure, all this beauty and history and culture has not (so far) saved the faith in Europe. My point is simply that if a European Christian wants to go digging for things that root them in Christian faith and practice, they’re incomparably easier to find here. And that is an advantage when it comes to living the Ben Op. And, by the grace of God, St. Vicente, the Spanish Civil War martyrs, the great cathedrals, and all the Christian things I have seen here on this wonderful week in Spain are here for me, an American, for the making of my own perspective. They’re here for you too. Please come visit them. As Americans, they are part of our spiritual and cultural patrimony as well.
Finally, before I head to the airport, here’s a passage from an e-mail sent by a Canadian reader:
I’ve been reading Jacques Barzun’s 1943 book Classic, Romantic, and Modern, and a passage about the charge of escapism (levelled by some against the Romantics) reminded me of the criticism you have often received about the Benedict Option — viz. that it is “running away”, “hiding”, etc. Barzun’s rebuttal might be encouraging to you:
“…one is led to see that romanticism was far from being an escape from reality on the part of feeble spirits who could not stand it. The truth is that these spirits wanted to change the portions of reality that they did not like, and at least record their ideals when the particular piece of reality would not yield – both these being indispensable steps toward reconstruction. Our modern use of the term “escape” is unfortunately vitiated by smugness and double meanings, and one should refuse to argue its application with anyone who will not first answer this question: “Suppose a primitive man, caught in a rainstorm, who has for the first time the idea of taking shelter in a cave: is he facing reality or escaping it?” The whole history of civilization is wrapped up in this example, and a universal test for distinguishing creation from escape can be deduced from it. The mere fact that a man is seen making a cave or heard declaring his intention to build a hut is not enough; what is he going to do then? What is the relation of that single act to his whole scheme of life? Applying this test to romanticism, we shall see that on the whole it was infinitely more constructive than escapist.” (p.15)
In other words, “escape” can be but the first stage of something else. It’s a point you’ve often made, but it never hurts to hear it again.
Amen. Thank you, reader. I’ll touch base in Dublin — I have more to tell you about Valencia and Zaragoza.
I read the stories below yesterday, on a train to Valencia (a beautiful city — more on which shortly). I couldn’t get a wifi connection in my hotel, so I couldn’t post this last night. That’s probably for the best; I’ve had more time to think about it. Which, in this case, has not moderated my opinion one bit, but if anything has made me angrier and more concerned.
Here, from the Washington Post, is a prime example of religious ignorance and cultural philistinism in the US media elite. This is what counts as a scandal among these people:
The school where Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen, has accepted a part-time job teaching art requires potential employees to affirm certain religious beliefs that seek to exclude homosexual and transgender applicants, including that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Immanuel Christian School, a private K-8 school in Springfield, Va., outside of Washington, sets forth the position in its employment application for teachers and support staff in a section that requires applicants to initial a set of standards that begins with a promise that they are born-again Christians.
One of the items is a pledge to “live a personal life of moral purity.”
“I understand that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture,” the section says, saying that God intended sexual acts to occur only between “a man and a woman who are married to each other.”
“Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.”
Let me explain something to Washington Post writer Eli Rosenberg and his editors: This. Is. Normal. Within. Conservative. Christianity. You might well think it is weird, but it is perfectly normal, and — stay with me here, Eli Rosenberg, Millennial native of southern California, graduate of UCLA, and 10-year resident of New York City — this point of view was common throughout America practically the day before yesterday. Christian schools having moral codes is not news.
A George Washington University law professor explains this in the piece, and says that the school hiring Karen Pence is well within its rights. But it’s still horrible, horrible!:
“They have staked out a certain set of positions on issues that are confrontational,” he said of the Trump White House. “The administration seems to live on wedges, so paying attention to this just feeds their interest in driving one more wedge. And this confirms their bona fides with religious conservatives and they sort of seem to do that, because Donald Trump, whatever he might say, is not that.”
Matthew Haag of The New York Times wrote the same story, pretty much. It even has a quote from an Academic Expert who says that this is normal, but still horrible, horrible!:
She said that Mrs. Pence’s choice of employment was not surprising because the school’s values appeared to mirror those of the Trump administration.
“Given the exclusionary nationalism in this administration and sorts of politics taken on various things, it would not be at all surprising for the second lady to associate herself with some prominent fashion with an institution like this,” Professor Hurd said. “It raises important issues about education and diversity, and what kind of forward-facing public officials we want representing our country at home and abroad.”
Haag is a Brooklyn-based Millennial, but he’s from Texas, and should know that the story is a lot more culturally nuanced than this. Why no quote from someone like David French?
David French explains why this is no scandal at all, but the sort of thing media (including CNN) are ginning up for purposes of advancing hatred of Americans who believe standard Christianity. Excerpt:
Is the Democratic party wrong if it excludes Republicans? Is a Muslim mosque wrong if it wants to be led by an imam and not a rabbi?
Not only is this not scandalous, but it’s also the exercise of a fundamental First Amendment right. If Lois Romano [of the WaPo] or [CNN reporter] Kate Bennett or any other Karen Pence critic wants to argue against Christian theology, then have at it. Most Christians I know welcome the dialogue. But if they want to condemn a woman for the free exercise of her Christian faith? If they want to argue that there’s something inherently wrong with orthodox Christians’ associating, worshipping together, and teaching their children? Well, then they’re exhibiting a deep intolerance that’s at odds with pluralism itself.
They don’t care. “Diversity,” “tolerance,” and “pluralism” for these people means something very different from what it means for the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Two things (at least) are worth noting about this: First, this story (and others like it) are tactical moves in an effort to “condition the environment” for situations when nominees to federal courts are revealed to have been involved with/sent their children to schools that have policies in place that reflect the abovementioned norms. Second, this story (and others like it) are tactical moves in an effort by opponents of school choice to — having largely lost the battle over the “statist monopoly or parental choice?” debate — cripple voucher and other school-choice programs by pushing legislatures (and enlisting business boycotts and pressure to push legislatures) to exclude from voucher programs those schools that “discriminate.”
Yep. Similarly, the recent outrage over esteemed natural law scholar John Finnis (see here) was not really about Finnis, who will survive the SJW strike, but about laying the groundwork for the exclusion from the academy of younger scholars who share his views.
Here’s what I think: this is exactly the kind of thing that makes me know who I am, and who — and what — my enemies are.
It never would have occurred to me that Karen Pence going to work teaching art to children in a Christian school was a political act meant to signal to the right-wing base. But that’s how this GW law prof sees it: Pence’s decision to teach art part-time to little Christian schoolchildren is an attack on LGBT people, and part of the Trump administration’s war on decency. My guess is that the Post sees this non-story as a big deal, because LGBT rights are the most important thing that have ever existed in the history of America.
This is how they think: everything is political. Everything.
What do I mean when I say my “enemies”? My “enemies” are not people who believe in LGBT rights. My enemies — politically — are those in the establishment (media, academia, law, politics, etc.) who insist on portraying people of traditional faith as moral monsters who ought to be hounded out of public life as indecent. To many on the left today, Karen Pence going to teach in an ordinary conservative Christian school under ordinary conservative Christian circumstances is the equivalent of going to teach at a segregation academy that bans black people.
I get that. I get that they see no difference between race and sexuality in terms of identity. What I don’t get is how they refuse to see that theirs is an extremely recent view, one that is rejected by many religious and even some non-religious people. Leaving religion out of it entirely, I truly do not understand why race and sexual desire are equivalent things, much less the same kind of things. This may come as a shock to Lois Romano and Kate Bennett, but I have lived in a variety of places around the US, and I have traveled to a fair number of foreign countries. You know what? People are different. Significantly different. There are some beliefs and customs that I do not like, or really understand. But I don’t have to like or understand them to accept them as tolerably human.
I know, it’s hard. Because everything that is immoral should not also be illegal, and because we often can’t agree on what’s immoral, living in a pluralist culture requires constantly negotiating between what we should tolerate, both in law and custom, and what should not be tolerated. This idea that Karen Pence teaching art to little-bitties at a private conservative Evangelical school is another sign of Trump’s Assault On America™ is in truth a signal of the kind of secular fundamentalist jihad that the left is gearing up to wage, and in fact is waging.
For Christians, this is a teachable moment. The law protects the right of this Christian school to do what it does, but it does not protect individual Christians from a backlash via media (and social media) shaming. Sorry to be a salesman here, but if you aren’t preparing your kids via The Benedict Option for holding on to their faith despite this kind of thing, they’re going to crack under the pressure.
I’ll be a salesman because I have been in Spain being one for the past week. Spanish Christians are under immense pressure from the government and from the media, the academy, and other institutions of secular society. Spain has a history of ferocious anti-clericalism, so this is nothing new. But I have heard from a number of Catholic laity that they are fed up with their bishops trying so hard to be politically agreeable, and not standing up and leading. Also, more than a few Catholics have complained to me bitterly about Catholic schools. One polite and respectful 14 year old boy told me the other day that in his Catholic school, he said out loud that he did not believe in the gender ideology presented to the students (that is, he stood for orthodox Catholic teaching), and he found himself waylaid by other students, who called him a macho bigot. He told me he only found one other kid in the entire school who agrees with him, and this boy isn’t even a Christian.
Mainstream Spanish society is in many ways strongly anti-Christian, and seeks to punish and to stigmatize believers. One man told me today that Christians don’t have much power at all, but the dominant Left here constantly comes up with new outrages to justify punishing the Church even more.
This afternoon and evening I walked around the old part of Barcelona, and saw churches that had been burned during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). In fact, one of my hosts said that every church in the city had been burned, leaving only the shell standing. An academic historian at dinner one day this past week told me about interviewing someone who fought on the leftist side in the war, and how this man recalled with cold lucidity how he had convinced himself to murder priests (or some other enemies of the revolution) back during the conflict. The historian said that in the end, he had been quite impressed with the icy rationality of the killer: from an ideological point of view, it made perfect sense. Priests, nuns, and those who supported them stood in the way of the Revolution. Therefore, they were evil, and had to die.
Anticlericalism (by which I mean anti-Christianity) has been a mainstay of continental European countries since the 18th century. European liberalism has been unlike Anglo-American liberalism in that it has been fiercely anticlerical. We have been historically unafflicted with this in the US — but now that the American left is so thoroughly and militantly secularized, American Christians are going to have to learn how to live with anticlericalism, as continental European Christians have done for many decades.
It’s an ugly thing, a demoralizing thing. I get the idea that Spanish Catholics would love to be left alone to practice their faith as minorities in a vehemently post-Christian society. But the Left won’t let them. Catholics have to always be looking over their shoulders, waiting for the next thing, and enduring further demonization in the public square.
Here’s a preview of what’s coming after Trump. In the Spanish Civil War, whether or not individual Catholics loved Gen. Francisco Franco, most of them supported his cause because at least the Nationalists weren’t burning down churches and killing clergy, nuns, and lay believers. After Franco’s victory, the Church was given a place of privilege in Franquist Spain. The post-Franco order, which began in 1978, saw a fierce backlash against the Church for having collaborated with the dictator.
Franco has been dead for 45 years or so, but it’s still happening.
Let’s be clear: Donald Trump is not Francisco Franco, and America is not 1930s Spain. But it’s not hard to see that the political and cultural dynamic could be similar. Lots of Christians voted for Trump not because they loved or admired him, but out of self-defense from a secularist Democratic Party that is increasingly hostile to social and religious conservatives, and the things we care for.
After Trump and his shambling, punch-drunk administration passes into history, the Left in power is going to double down on punishing conservative Christians for having collaborated with Trump. Trump critics like Russell Moore will be treated no better than Trump lovers like Robert Jeffress. It’s coming.
We just have to hope that we can avoid violence. Don’t think for a second that Americans aren’t capable of it. I was listening today to a Catalan man in Barcelona tell me that he sent his son out of the city not long ago, fearing outbreaks of nationalist violence by pro-independence Catalans, and thinking, “Aren’t we lucky that we don’t have to be afraid of that kind of violence in America.” Then I thought about the 1960s and 1970s, with the KKK violence in the South, and the left-wing radical violence elsewhere. We are probably a hell of a lot closer to it than we’d like to think.
I’ll leave you with Alan Jacobs’s reflection on what the writers, editors, and broadcasters in our national media are setting themselves, and all of us, up for. He begins by quoting an interview with French thinker Christophe Guilluy, who observes this about the conditions creating populist movements:
We have a new bourgeoisie, but because they are very cool and progressive, it creates the impression that there is no class conflict anymore. It is really difficult to oppose the hipsters when they say they care about the poor and about minorities.
But actually, they are very much complicit in relegating the working classes to the sidelines. Not only do they benefit enormously from the globalised economy, but they have also produced a dominant cultural discourse which ostracises working-class people. Think of the ‘deplorables’ evoked by Hillary Clinton. There is a similar view of the working class in France and Britain. They are looked upon as if they are some kind of Amazonian tribe. The problem for the elites is that it is a very big tribe.
Jacobs agrees with this assessment, and adds, in part:
And that’s because nowhere has a leader emerged who possesses the combination of charisma and shrewdness to channel the frustrations of the economically marginalized into a meaningful program of reform — or revolution.
Such leaders also take different forms: Nelson Mandela was one, and so was César Chávez, and so was Lenin. It is possible that the union of the global neoliberal order and the big media companies — which serve as the Ministry of Amnesia for that order — will be able to prevent the emergence of such a leader. But I don’t think so. I believe that eventually and somewhere such a leader will arise. And when that happens the cool and progressive Left will be so, so screwed.
However, I suspect that if it happens here so will I.
Yep, me too. And it may end up with me participating in my own self-sabotage, because this Karen Pence thing is, like the Kavanaugh hearings, a reminder of the complete contempt the cultural elite has for people like me, and that it really is necessary to side with politicians I don’t like at all, but who at least don’t want to burn my church and school down, to speak metaphorically (I think).
You go read Thomas Edsall’s analysis of how the conflict over sex and gender norms is generating political conflict. Especially this part:
The current era has been marked by a continuous series of challenges to once indisputable truths about sex and gender. Ubiquitous contraception, for one thing, has altered the fundamentals of reproductive roles. The alteration of these fundamentals has been followed by a series of transformations and dislocations — women’s rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, transgender rights, new forms of family formation and dissolution, and vastly altered patterns of fertility. Challenges to core understandings of masculinity — and femininity — are inescapable.
The immensity of these upheavals should not be underestimated. That people are seeking political solutions to rapid societal changes is no surprise. That these solutions erupt in political conflict is also inevitable. For some, new horizons in matters of sexuality and sexual identity offer opportunity; for others, discomfort and fear predominate. These responses are increasingly sorting themselves into partisan affiliation, sometimes uncomfortably. And as I said at the outset, they have become an integral element of contemporary political conflict, which means that an ultimate resolution is light years away.
The attempted shaming of Karen Pence is a condensed symbol for the elite secular left’s hatred of conservative Christians and our morals and mores. I don’t actually give a rip what a Post, Times, or CNN reporter thinks of Karen Pence and evangelical Christians. What I care about is that their uncomprehending contempt, broadcast nationwide, and magnified massively on social media, is preparing the country for something extremely ugly.
CNN legal analyst Areva Martin thought she was talking to a white man Tuesday while appearing as a guest on David Webb’s SiriusXM radio show.
When Webb, a frequent Fox News contributor and host on Fox Nation, said he considered his qualifications more important than his skin color when applying to jobs in journalism, Martin accused him of exercising white privilege.
But there’s a problem with that sentiment, as Webb quickly pointed out:
“Areva, I hate to break it to you, but you should’ve been better prepped,” he responded. “I’m black.”
You can hear the whole thing by following the link above. Shorter Areva Martin: “Non-White Person Good, White Penis Person Bad.”
I also encourage you to read this Jesse Singal thread. Singal, a left-liberal journalist, here makes fun of what gullible sheep progressives are for giving big corporations a pass if the corporations signal their woke virtue (this, in response to a woke razor ad):
ExxonMobil: Listen up folkx- Fracking Just Got Feminist
Twitter progressives: YASSS KWEEEN EXXON
Lockheed Martin: Intersectionality is da BOMB
Twitter progressive: OMG THISTHISTHISTHI
Hitler’s ghost: More like DIE Stürmer, because gender’s just
Twitter progressives: 🔥🔥🔥
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) January 16, 2019
Left Twitter jumped on him for making fun of the Victims™, or whatever. Singal came back:
2/ Someone responded by calling this “red-pill” stuff. I guess it’s my fault i people misunderstand, but I’m NOT making fun of, like, the *causes* being referenced here. I’m making fun of hokey corporate manipulation that I think people are a bit too credulous of.
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) January 16, 2019
Orwell had Left Twitter’s number in Animal Farm:
None of the other animals on the farm could get further than the letter A. It was also found that the stupider animals, such as the sheep, hens, and ducks, were unable to learn the Seven Commandments by heart. After much thought Snowball declared that the Seven Commandments could in effect be reduced to a single maxim, namely: “Four legs good, two legs bad.” This, he said, contained the essential principle of Animalism. Whoever had thoroughly grasped it would be safe from human influences. The birds at first objected, since it seemed to them that they also had two legs, but Snowball proved to them that this was not so.
“A bird’s wing, comrades,” he said, “is an organ of propulsion and not of manipulation. It should therefore be regarded as a leg. The distinguishing mark of man is the HAND, the instrument with which he does all his mischief.”
The birds did not understand Snowball’s long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim by heart. FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD, was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters. When they had once got it by heart, the sheep developed a great liking for this maxim, and often as they lay in the field they would all start bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad! Four legs good, two legs bad!” and keep it up for hours on end, never growing tired of it.
Lunch across the street from my publisher’s offices. that in the middle is a “tortilla”: eggs, potatoes, and cured ham. On the left is a pork cutlet with a quail egg over easy on top. In the rear, fried cheese. All utterly delicious.
This “tortilla” option seems to me well worth exploring further, back home, in my own kitchen.
I know people say this every time something like this comes up, but we all know that they never, ever would have done anything like this to Islam. The thing to keep in mind here is that this art exhibit is sponsored by Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions. What on earth is Harvard teaching its students about how men and women who actually follow the world religion that is Eastern Christianity live out and understand their faith? What this exhibit teaches them is that Eastern Christianity is something to sh*t on for a laugh, because HA-HA, we’re Harvard, and we know better than you prostrating, icon-kissing hicks.
A few odds and ends from the trip so far:
1. The Spanish reader who tipped me off about the radical sex education the provincial government of Navarra is forcing on all schools there writes with more information:
To reply to some commentators, colleagues and people generally recognize how radical Skolae is…it is every bit as radical as it seems to be, encouraging all sorts of erotic games and role playing for the very young, etc etc.
Back in Nov. there was hope Catholic and other “concerted” schools would be exempted from Skolae, and CitizenGo/Haszteoir Christian online platform even sent out an email claiming this partial victory. Then they had to correct themselves, as the regional government confirmed it would be applicable to everyone, including Opus Dei schools (the same ones being choked off by the new numbers limitations- people in the know tell me all of this is to make Navarra less attractive to large Catholic families coming in [it was a magnet for years], and to force some out, like we had to do — as we went to live in another region). Let me see later if I can find an update, but
A few links on the underhanded efforts to choke off Catholic “concerted” schools [those that have a partial state subsidy] with class-size limits:
Blog posting on the matter with a slide show of additional related articles:
2. Last night in the Sevilla audience, someone said that they didn’t understand what the big deal was about the Benedict Option. Aren’t we Christians supposed to be doing these things already? The answer is yes! But we are not doing them. The Ben Op is a call to repentance.
But it is more than that. It is also a call to recognize that we small-o orthodox Christians live in a world that is far more hostile to what we believe to be true. Accepting that reality requires us to be far more countercultural than we are accustomed to. It means we will have to radically adjust our expectations for life, and develop new ways of living out the faith that build resistance and resilience. We have to be what Benedict XVI called “creative minorities” — accepting the reality that ours is a post-Christian society, but responding to it with creativity.
In The Benedict Option, I give examples of Christians doing exactly this (e.g., the Tipi Loschi of Italy, the Benda family of Prague, the Catholics of St. Jerome School in Hyattsville, Maryland, and others). One main goal of the book is to wake up Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians, and encourage them to form networks of mutual support, and foster creative resistance to the Zeitgeist.
3. Last night in Sevilla, a woman in the audience was overheard remarking that one wishes for the courage simply to stand up and say that what is going on is crazy and intolerable. Everyone she knows says this privately, but no one is willing to say it publicly, because they are afraid of the Left. They are afraid of being called a fascist, a bigot, and so forth. This fear must be cast out. I learned from a local I met yesterday in Andalucia that the political party Vox, which was recently voted into regional government in a province that has always voted Left since Franco’s death.
The press calls Vox a “far-right” party, which says more about the media than it does Vox, I’m guessing, but I refrain from passing judgment until and unless I know more about the party. My interlocutor told me that the people he knows that voted for Vox are not racists at all, but they are above all sick and tired of the endless inflow of migrants from Africa, who land on Spain’s shores then disappear into Europe. And they’re tired of being told by the left and the mainstream that they are racists for wanting to keep Spain like it is. They see the mainstream conservative parties as useless in fighting for Spain.
Again, I don’t know enough about this party to support or oppose it. I’m simply repeating what an Andalucian who came to hear my speech said to me. I suppose he could have been misleading me, but this same pattern can be observed all over Europe, and even in the United States: people don’t understand why they should be ashamed to surrender their countries and their traditions, and they are fed up with political correctness making them afraid to say what’s on their mind.
One thing I hope comes out of my Ben Op tour of Spain: that I will have encouraged traditional Spanish Catholics to realize that they are not alone in this country, that there are others who agree with them, and who are tired of dealing with Catholic schools that are Catholic in name only, and sick of dealing with governments that seem determined to destroy the faith and its practices.
4. Politics, though, cannot answer every problem. In talking with Andalucians yesterday, I heard that young Spaniards are strongly resisting marriage, and starting families. Spain has one of Europe’s highest rates of delaying marriage; the average age of first marriage for men is 38, and for women 35. The number of church weddings in Spain is remarkably low — only about one in five. More:
Now, Pérez-Agote feels that Spain is undergoing a third wave of secularization.
“Today’s youngsters are the children of people who have no interest in religion; when they think about getting married they don’t think about doing so through the Church, which feels alien to them,” he notes.
I heard two adult Catholics in Andalucia — neither married, both wanting to be — saying that it is very, very hard to find marriage partners who take the faith seriously. Seems to me to be one very important Benedict Option project: establishing a network through which serious Christians can find each other and marry. Last year in Italy, someone told me that Catholic families like his are in touch with other young Catholic families, all of whom have a Benedict Option attitude towards the future of the faith, and who are building family networks in hope that their children, having been raised as serious Catholics, will marry each other and raise Catholic families. Said this man, “This is how the Church is going to survive in Europe during this century.”
Anyway, politics can’t solve the problem of the steep decline of marriage culture. A few years ago, I spoke to an American academic who studies family formation and cultural factors. He had been hired by the European Union to do a paper recommending ways to raise the fertility rate without religion. He told me that he researched the question, and reported back that it couldn’t be done. They were not happy with that result. Apparently in a modern society, unless you believe that children are a primary good, the reasons not to have children are convincing. But that’s how a people dies off.
For what it’s worth…