Last weekend, I read Political Tribes: Group Instinct And The Fate Of Nations, a new book by Yale law professor Amy Chua. Chua does not write as a political partisan. Rather, she writes as an analyst of our political culture, which is rapidly tribalizing. I strongly encourage everyone to read the book to understand the nature of our dire political moment, and how much worse it could get if we don’t find some way to stop the cycle.

I want to be very clear: Amy Chua does not side with either the left or the right in her book. She says that all of us are tribalizing. She doesn’t say this in an artificial “pox on both your houses” way. She really means it, and she shows how it’s happening.

The book starts by talking about how Americans’ blindness to tribalism as a social and anthropological fact has been disastrous for us overseas. She quotes President Woodrow Wilson saying that “America does not consist of groups” — a statement that was bonkers on its face in a time of legal segregation, among other things. But that was the myth that Wilson wanted us to believe, and that many white Americans wanted to believe. Chua doesn’t say this, but it seems to me clear that in the same way that many liberals today conceal their own racism, and racist policies, from themselves by framing their worldview as “inclusive” and “diverse,” many in the ruling white establishment in Wilson’s day (I don’t think “liberal” or “conservative” in the way we understand the terms makes sense applied back then) told themselves that “America does not consist of groups” as a way to conceal from themselves the ugly facts of discrimination against marginalized Americans.

That was the American ideal, though not the American reality. Chua doesn’t use that to slam America as hypocritical, though. She says that this sentiment represents America “at both its best and its worst.” That is, America aspires to be a nation where loyalty to ideals and principles trumps group loyalty — that is America at its best — but is also a nation where the better angels of our nature are so comely that the cause us to overlook our demons.

Chua talks extensively about how our very American reluctance to recognize tribalism has caused us to make catastrophic foreign policy mistakes. And not only our reluctance to recognize tribalism, but also the remarkable success we have had as a nation in restraining tribalism. Though far from perfect, we really are exceptional among the nations of the world in this achievement. The problem is, we think of it as universal, or at least universalizable.

Our ideological blindness caused us to fail to understand that the Vietnam war was not about communism, but about nationalism — and that Vietnamese nationalism also included anti-Chinese hatred. Did you know that the Chinese dominated Vietnam for almost a thousand years? I didn’t. Did you know that ethnic Chinese within Vietnam, though a minority, controlled most of the economy, even into the modern era? I certainly did not. Chua says that the US government totally missed the ethno-nationalist core of the Vietnamese nationalist struggle, preferring to understand it in Cold War ideological terms.

Here’s something startling I learned from Chua’s book: neuroscientists have identified tribalist instincts in the brains of newborns:

The neurological processes of in-group recognition and favoritism start extremely early. Newborns shown images of people’s faces do not respond differently based on race. But as early as three months later, in Yale psychologist Paul Bloom’s words, “Caucasian babies prefer to look at Caucasian faces, as opposed to African or Chinese faces; Ethiopian babies prefer to look at Ethiopian faces rather than Caucasian faces; Chinese babies babies prefer to look at Chinese faces rather than Caucasian or African faces.” While we can take comfort in the fact that humans aren’t born racists, its’ unnerving to realize that racial preferences develop so early.

It’s also the case that “racial in-group empathy can operate neurologically even when we don’t realize it or acknowledge it.” Worse:

[R]ecent studies by Mina Cikara, the director of the Harvard Intergroup Neuroscience Lab, show that under certain circumstances our brains’ “reward centers” will activate when we see members of an out-group failing or suffering a misfortune. …

Humans aren’t just a little tribal. We’ve very tribal, and it distorts the way we think and feel.

One of the deepest tribal affiliations is ethnicity. When you have an ethnic minority dominating a nation’s market, you have the potential for vicious conflict. In a fascinating chapter on the fate of Venezuela, Chua discusses how that country’s light-skinned elites controlled an extremely disproportionate amount of its economic resources. Hugo Chavez — dark-skinned, kinky-haired — capitalized on this to come to power. We all know what a disaster Chavismo has made of Venezuela’s economy, but it’s very important to understand that Chavez didn’t come from nowhere. Massive inequality in Venezuela — an inequality that broke down among racial and ethnic lines — laid the groundwork for his despotic rule.

Chavez, by the way, was popularly elected, then twice re-elected. Chua points out that we fetishize democracy so much in the West that we miss how democracy can exacerbate tribalism. This is what happened in Iraq, a Shia-majority country that had been ruled by police-state terror by Saddam Hussein, a member of the Sunni minority. When democracy came, naturally the Shia voted for Shia. Once in power, the Shia ruled as tribalists, securing power and privilege for themselves, and pushing the Sunni to the side. Hence, ISIS. Chua cautions that democracy is not to blame for ISIS, strictly speaking, but imposing democracy on a country saturated by religious tribalism was bound to unleash forces that produced ISIS.

In that other US Mideast fiasco, Afghanistan, which is not Arab, the conflict is not best understood as a religious one, but rather as a tribal struggle. The fact that the Taliban are fanatical Muslims obscures to our eyes the more important fact that they are Pashtuns, the tribe that has historically dominated Afghanistan, fighting against Tajiks and other Afghani peoples.

More Chua:

Against a backdrop of stark group inequality, the most successful extremist groups offer their members precisely what existing societal institutions do not: a tribe, a sense of belonging and purpose, an enemy to hate and kill, and a chance to reverse the group polarity, turning humiliation into superiority and triumph.

Think about what this means, for example, to poor and working-class white people in the US. In her chapter on Venezuela, Chua says that she wrote a piece for the New York Times in 2003, talking about how 80 percent of Venezuelans — dark-skinned men and women like Hugo Chavez — are economic outsiders in a nation in which 20 percent of light-skinned Venezuelans control most of the economy. She was not prepared for “the deluge of vicious hate mails” from white Venezuelans, who told her that racism did not exist in Venezuela, and that there were no racial barriers to black and brown progress there.

Those Venezuelans couldn’t see it, and if they could see it, they dismissed it. We do the same thing. Try to convince liberals of any race that poor and working class whites who voted for Trump, and who feel marginalized, have a point. They will raise hell. Try to point out instances of anti-white discrimination, or anti-Christian discrimination, and they will either deny it or, if they admit that it happens, will say that these whites and/or Christians deserve it anyway.

Are there any whites and/or Christians who can plausibly deny that our tribe(s) don’t do the same thing? That we aren’t as blinded by tribalism as the others are? Come on, seriously, think about it. Even if we can’t identify it within ourselves, we should at least be humble enough to be open to the likelihood that we’re doing it.

The problem is that to embrace that humility is to leave oneself vulnerable to attack from other tribes. Chua has a chapter about tribalism in America including “America’s two white tribes”. She writes:

To many on the left, anyone who even mentions economic factors as having contributed to Trump’s election is either racist or, at minimum, perpetuating and enabling racism. As a Vox article put it, “As this election fades into the distance … we’ll spin a collective fairy tale about how a neglected group of white Americans who themselves were victims simply wanted change and used their votes to demand it. … There will be a push to ‘understand’ them, and this will be presented as the mature and moral thing to do. … And when that happens — when the deep bigotry that fueled the result is forgotten or explained away — racism will win yet again.”

But to see the divisiveness in today’s America — and the forces that brought about Trump’s election — as solely about racism, while ignoring the role of inequality, misses too much of the picture. Even putting economics aside, it misses the role played by white-against-white resentment and antagonism.

She talks about the economic and cultural clash between white coastal elites and whites in the heartland. Get this:

Tribalism in America propelled Donald Trump to the White House. If we want to understand this tribalism, we have to acknowledge the impact of inequality and the wedge it has driven between America’s whites. “Coastal elites” have become a kind of market-dominant minority from the point of view of America’s heartland, and, as we’ve seen all over the developing world, market-dominant minorities invariably end up producing democratic backlash.

One of the most fascinating and most vicious intra-white disputes of the moment is the one between pro- and anti-Trump conservative Evangelicals. It most definitely has a class element, as well as a regional one, and a generational one. What makes it so hard to resolve is that actual Christian principles involved are difficult, almost impossible, to separate from other identities held by the antagonists. For example, many coastal white conservative Evangelicals (I’m using “coastal” as shorthand here), though a decided minority among white Evangelicals, have already gone over to the pro-LGBT position espoused by secular and religious liberals. A liberal non-Christian friend in DC told me last week that he doesn’t know anybody in Washington who opposes gay marriage. He’s a liberal, but he’s also cosmopolitan, and rubs shoulders professionally with conservatives. And yet, to his knowledge, he knows no conservatives who oppose gay marriage. I believe him, though I also believe he might well know some DC conservatives like this, but who have learned to keep their opinions to themselves. It is now déclassé to oppose gay marriage, even within conservative circles — and even, more and more, within conservative Evangelical circles in some urban areas.

So, what do you do if you’re somebody like Russell Moore, a heartland conservative Evangelical who strongly opposes Donald Trump and what he stands for, but who also does not embrace the kind of cultural cosmopolitanism on sexuality that more and more urban evangelicals do? Which tribe is yours? Though I’m not an Evangelical, this is the question I, as a traditional Christian, face every day. As embarrassing and as infuriating as some of the vocal pro-Trump conservative Christians can be, they are never so much so as to erase from my mind the suspicion that more than a few coastal Christians would happily see my sub-tribe and its institutions quashed, either for principled reasons (they think we really are immoral), or to increase their standing within their cosmopolitan tribe, or some mixture of both.

Chua says that in America today, every group thinks they are discriminated against, and are on the defensive. Depending on which community you’re talking about, you can find evidence for it. For example:

It is simply a fact that the “diversity” policies at the most selective American universities and in some sectors of the economy have had a disparate adverse impact on whites. Relative to the population percentage, working-class whites, and particularly white Christians from conservative states, are often the most underrepresented group at America’s elite universities. White employees increasingly feel victimized by prodiversity promotion policies that they see as discriminating against them — and the United States Supreme Court has agreed, striking down as illegal a particularly bald-faced attempt by the city of New Haven, Connecticut, to invalidate promotions for white firefighters in order to promote more minorities.

Chua brings this up in her chapter on democracy and political tribalism in America to say that whites aren’t making this stuff up. But she also goes on to point out how American blacks aren’t making it up either when they point to certain facts about their own disadvantageous position. Nor are women. Nor are … you get the point.

We are at such a dangerous time in the US because no political tribe can dominate. An irony of white domination is that whites not only had the power to impose their will on minorities, they also had the security to loosen up, to be more inclusive and universalist. Chua:

Today, no group in America feels comfortably dominant. Every group feels attacked, pitted against other groups not just for jobs and spoils but for the right to define the nation’s identity. In these conditions, democracy devolves into zero-sum group competition — pure political tribalism.

She continues:

[A]t different times in the past, both the American Left and the American Right have stood for group-transcending values. Neither does today.

I found this part of Chua’s book less convincing than the rest. Why? Because it seems clear to me that in its rhetoric, the Left is more invested in identity politics. You might say that the Right is just as bought in, but it conceals its identitarianism under idealistic rhetoric, as Woodrow Wilson did back in 1915. There’s no doubt something to that. The post-Obama Left, though, doesn’t even pretend to be otherwise. How can anyone not already sold out to the far left listen to the rhetoric and watch the actions coming out of DePauw University (to take but one example) and not conclude that the vanguard of the Left has lost its mind? As we’ve been talking about in this space, this kind of radicalism is by no means confined to campus. It’s making its way through corporate America.

Chua’s final chapter is anticlimactic and unconvincing. Why? Because in it, she voices hope that the worst will be avoided. She discusses how people of different tribes within our culture learn to resist tribalism based on daily contact with people outside their tribe. Don’t get me wrong: I hope Amy Chua is right about this! We had all better hope so. Everything that preceded this final optimistic chapter was so strong, however, that her conclusion seems like little more than wishful thinking.

But what else is there? Chua’s concluding chapter reminds me of the conclusion of Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, in that there seems to be no credible solution for the deep problems their books have diagnosed. Deneen, you’ll recall, doesn’t know what should follow liberalism, and can’t conceive of any plausible solution. All he knows is that liberalism cannot sustain itself. He hopes that whatever is to come next will emerge out of the experiences of small, local communities. That’s a feeble conclusion from a man who is not a feeble thinker, but again, what else is there? Similarly, Amy Chua is anything but a feeble thinker, but if all she’s got to go on is the hope that people will turn away from tribalist passions out of empathy, well, we’re in trouble.

I mentioned here the other day how the poet W.H. Auden returned to the church after going to a movie theater in Manhattan in the late 1930s. (Edward Mendelson recounts the anecdote in this essay.) The neighborhood was filled with German immigrants, and they were watching some kind of Nazi newsreel. Auden was horrified by the tribalist bloodlust on display in the audience. He staggered out of the theater convinced that the liberal humanism in which he believed was not strong enough to counter the demonic gods of race tribalism. This is why he turned back to Christianity.

(This brings to mind something I was told recently by a new friend who had once been deeply involved in the occult, but who converted to Christianity. The man lived through harrowing things, things that seared his mind, and that bring him to tears to talk about today. He told me that from personal experience, he believes that the only thing stronger than the demonic forces he used to align with is Jesus Christ. I responded by telling him the account given to me by a college friend studying psychology who did a summer internship in a clinic for mentally disturbed teenagers. For some reason, the clinic that summer had an unusual number of teenagers recovering from deep involvement with the occult, which had fried their minds. My friend, who wasn’t religious, told me back then that all of these kids had become hardcore Christians, for the same reason that my new friend today says. It’s like they’re all spiritual Whittaker Chamberses. Anyway, I digress… .)

In his column today, Andrew Sullivan, a naturalized American writing from England, discusses how much England has changed, and how tribalism is pulling his old and his new country apart. Excerpt:

Ta-Nehisi Coates has called these people witting enablers of white supremacy because they voted for Trump, conjuring up images of men in white hoods lynching and murdering African-Americans. But many of them voted for Obama twice. Clinton called half of Trump voters “a basketful of deplorables.” But a majority of white women voted for Trump. The left intelligentsia regards them as bigots, racists, xenophobes, and even “privileged” — attitudes and statements that are re-broadcast every hour of every day to the white and culturally anxious viewers of Fox News. What few on the left seem to see is that cultural anxiety, given the ethnic and cultural transformation of the last few decades, is an entirely predictable and entirely understandable response. If people felt that someone in charge actually saw their point of view, sympathized with it, and attempted even minor changes to accommodate it, we would have a different politics. But all they had was Trump. And all they still have is Trump.

If that is true in immigrant-created, multiracial, multicultural America, a vast and churning continent, always restless, always changing, it is triply true in the little, overcrowded, once remarkably homogeneous island that is Britain. This country’s core identity is thousands of years old. Yes, it has long accepted immigrants, but until the 1950s, net immigration was a rounding error. Since then, it has exploded. In the last 20 years, it has reached American levels. For those whose self-understanding is wrapped up in bluebells and tea, in English accents divided solely by class and region, in a nearly all-white and all-English country for centuries, these times are culturally terrifying.

It wasn’t their economic insecurity that gave us Brexit. It was that no one in charge even sensed their unease. Elites — and I count myself among the guilty — gave them nothing by way of reassurance or even a sense that they were understood instead of reviled. So all they had was Brexit. It wasn’t a rational decision; it was their only way to have their voices heard. Their pride and self-identity are bound up in it now, just as a critical slice of America’s is bound up in Trump. Which is why, despite the mounting evidence that the Brexit gambit is a disaster, they will never let it go.

Home is indeed where one starts from. Change it too rapidly and it will disintegrate. We have been fools on mass immigration, we have been fools for preventing an honest debate about the benefits and drawbacks of diversity, and we have been contemptible in our contempt for so many of our fellow citizens. Both countries are now paying a terrible, terrible price.

Do read the whole thing. 

And while we’re talking about tribalism, check out Michael Brendan Dougherty’s essay on tribalism and the victim mentality. Excerpt:

The religious aspect should be evident to anyone who offers a rational critique of some identity-politics shibboleth only to be told “You’re denying my identity” or “You’re erasing my existence.” It’s a mysterious response at first. You offer an argument and are told that you disbelieve in someone’s existence. It sounds like an accusation of atheism, for a good reason: You’re being charged with heresy, and if you do not desist, you reveal yourself as morally reprobate, as one who would, with full knowledge, repeat the Crucifixion. Or if you prefer the current academese, you are one who “reifies the structures of oppression.” You love yourself more than you love the victim-god standing before you, the one exposing his wounds and offering you forgiveness on condition that you recognize his pain, confess your unearned privilege, and promise obedience.

Depending on your disposition, you can take this mimicry of the Christian myth and ritual and its transmutation into politics as either a perverse compliment about the endurance of Christian thought or a kind of demonic parody. Either way, we are not here contending over something exclusively political. Once the explicitly political claims are filtered out, what is left over in victim politics is a churchly way of being in a world that has escaped the bonds of religion. We are contending with a longing for recognition and esteem and for a mission that has a transcendent horizon; no form of human governance can ever satisfy such desires.

He’s onto something. In fact, I think the most useful (and accurate) way to see the re-emergent tribalism in our civilization is as a form of religion — or rather, as a substitute religion.

A key thinker on this point is the late René Girard. Last year, I wrote a piece about Girard and victimization. It’s worth revisiting in light of Chua’s work (and these new pieces by Sullivan and Dougherty). Girard believed that the sociological basis for religion is an attempt to control the violence that comes from “mimetic rivalry” — desiring not so much what others have as desiring what they desire. Excerpt:

[I]t’s interesting to consider Girard’s point that people today don’t understand mimetic rivalry, because we are so given over to seeing the world and society in terms of heroic individualism that we can’t perceive the dangers inherent in violating taboos. If we tear down anything that fences us in and serves as a rein on our individual conduct, we also, whether we realize it or not, dismantle the internal mechanism that keeps a check on violence. That is to say, if we come to valorize transgression, we are steadily disarming ourselves before the malign power of our own violence.

Prohibitions repress mimetic rivalry within a society for the sake of keeping the peace. In primitive cultures, the prohibitions are embedded within the symbolic system that is a particular religion. Religion comes from the Latin word religare, which means “to bind.” Religion binds the community together within a shared agreement on prohibitions — an agreement that also affirms that these prohibitions have their roots in the sacred, in the transcendent. After all, “culture” comes from “cult,” which derives from the Latin word for worship.

Again, Girard was a believing Catholic (though he didn’t return to his ancestral faith until adulthood), but he says as a philosopher that the basis for all religion is man’s attempt to deal with the problem of “acquisitive mimesis” — that is, of the fact that we want what others have — and the violence that it inevitably sparks. Religious ritual is a process by which the “conflictual disintegration” of the community is transformed into “social collaboration.”

We have to be careful not to try to rationalize this process too much, Girard warns. It is important to keep it shrouded in mystery. To speak of religion and religious institutions in terms of their function is too naive and reductionistic.

The second way societies deal with mimetic rivalry is through ritual. Girard observes that primitive religions usually conclude their rituals with a sacrifice. The sacrifice is enormously important, because it is the process through which the community’s members confront their own division, offload the aspects of themselves that cause the division onto the sacrificial victim, and then reaffirm themselves as united. The victim is sacrificed for the sake of the community. The victim is “the final act of violence, its last word.”

So, in Girard’s theory, societies first try to suppress mimetic rivalry through prohibition, and when those fail, they turn to ritual “to channel it in a direction that would lead to resolution, which means a reconciliation of the community at the expense of what one must suppose to be an arbitrary victim.” The victim is considered to be sacred because in the eyes of the community, it sacramentally bears the sins of the collective and the resolution of the conflicts that led to the moment of crisis.

Girard says that not every society has been able to hold itself together through a sacrificial ritual, and has therefore disintegrated under the forces of mimetic rivalry:

But the observation of religious systems forces us to conclude (1) that the mimetic crisis always occurs, (2) that the banding together or all against a single victim is the normal resolution at the level of culture, and (3) that it is furthermore the normative resolution, because all the rules of culture stem from it.

At this point in my reading, I found myself wondering what constitutes the mimetic crisis of our own society. That is, how would Girard’s theory explain the divisions that afflict us?

For one thing, both sides in the culture war are engaged in a mimetic rivalry to claim victim status. Girard has said elsewhere that there has never been a culture (that we’re aware of) in which being seen as a victim is a source of power. Who are the oppressed, and who are the oppressor? The competition for victim status is a big part of the mimetic rivalry at the heart of the culture war.

For another, it seems to me that the mimetic rivals are contending over the power to set the rules of society. To perhaps oversimplify, the conservative side of the culture war wishes to retain older boundaries, older forms, and older customs. The liberal side wishes to rewrite the rules entirely, for the sake of liberating the expressive individual from those traditional constraints.

As a conservative, I worry very much that the ongoing victory of liberal forces in the culture war are disintegrating society by destroying the authority of tradition and traditional social roles and institutions. For example, not content with having destroyed the institution of marriage, which played a vital historical role in binding men to the mothers of their children, liberalism is now undertaking to destroy the idea of male and female. That much is clear, at least to me.

But that’s too easy. As I have said over and over in this space, we would not have same-sex marriage had we not first had the Sexual Revolution. And the Sexual Revolution did not come from nowhere. It sprang from a culture that had long been fertilized by the idea that eros — that is, passionate desire — is at the heart of what it means to be human. The 1960s may have marked a decisive break in popular culture, but the tectonic plates  had been moving beneath the surface for centuries. The point I wish to make here is that we cannot blame this entirely on the left. The disintegrative forces are also active on the right, especially in the economic sphere. The “creative destruction” of capitalism praised by Schumpeter is accepted without question by people on the right who would never countenance the same principle applied to sexuality. The two are of a piece in modernity.

The left, however, is force-marching our society towards mimetic conflict by tearing down the institutions and customs that have held society together, and by emphasizing identity politics, which sunder the bonds that hold the community together. The left is playing with fire. We are in a very fragile state now.

As Sullivan points out in his column today, the left is so consumed by victim-based identity politics that they are driving people on the right to the same thing. At this point, both sides are locked into a death spiral. To refuse identity politics is to relinquish the Ring of Power. But if we don’t refuse identity politics, there is no option for us in the future except violence. Girard has said that having lost its religion, the West is in a time that may well be apocalyptic.

Earlier today, I blogged in frustration at Yale University acquiescing to allowing students to bring “emotional support animals” to class. It is a silly thing, but also an extremely telling one about our culture. If you can claim victim status — e.g., that you are a victim of emotional distress — you can persuade authorities to let you get away with almost anything. A friend told me yesterday that at her daughter’s church preschool, the administration responded to the child’s claiming to be a boy by approaching the parents to see if they wanted to create a plan to foster the four-year-old’s transition. I’m not making this up. Again, that’s a silly thing, but one indicative of the power of victim ideology in our civilization. We reflexively rise to coddle and accommodate people who we perceive as having the status of sacred victims.

Dougherty’s essay, though, challenges the instinctive mockery to which conservatives like me resort. MBD is no sentimentalist. What these ridiculous expressions of tribalist-victimization amount to is a deep and profoundly human cry for identity, for solid ground in the raging floodwaters of liquid modernity.

To be sure, it is not the case that all claims of victimization are false. Most are based in some reality. Indeed, Andrew Sullivan — an old-fashioned liberal cosmopolitan — correctly identifies the unwillingness of the liberal cosmopolitan power-holders in contemporary Britain to see the suffering and alienation of Britons unlike themselves, and to address it meaningfully, as part of the blame for what Sullivan believes is the catastrophe of Brexit. Similarly in the US, Trump. This is not to take away agency from people who made a foolish decision (if indeed those decisions are foolish), but to explain where those decisions came from. If you read Chua’s book, you can see the same principle at work in different societies. Hugo Chavez’s rule brought Venezuela to ruin, but the seeds of that ruin grew in an impoverished society where vast numbers of people were shut out of money and power because of the color of their skin.

As far as I can tell, liberalism and its institutions is the best way possible — not a perfect way, but the best that we have — for societies to work out their tribalist differences in an orderly way. I wonder, though, if it is possible to sustain liberalism without a shared mythos that unites the tribes. The mythos doesn’t have to be literally true, but it has to be accepted as true by enough people to maintain the system. We have moved past Christianity, and have educated at least one generation of Americans to believe that our past is nothing but exploitation and bigotry. The thing is, the previous American mythmaking was also false, because it denied or downplayed the evil that was part of our national story.

The point here is not to debate US history and its interpretation. The point is to say that the myths that held us together — a common religion, a common history — are badly frayed, and it’s doubtful that they can hold much longer. The darker truth may be that the secular myth of America (the one that Woodrow Wilson stated in the passage above) may only have been believable in a country where the white tribe dominated — and, in fact, they rationalized their domination by telling themselves that the order they created was just.

I see no way of saving this order unless we all disarm in the culture war, and turn away from both identity politics and victimization as a means to power. The 20th century taught us the false paths of tribalist totalitarianism — Nazism as racist totalitarianism, Communism as class totalitarianism — but can the liberal order, without a basis in the universalist Christian religion, withstand renascent tribalism?

We shall see. This is a big reason why I believe in the Benedict Option: as a way to preserve (and preserve through practicing) Christianity throughout this time of trial by tribalism.