How Do We Fight The Woke Militants?
Walker Percy, Love In The Ruins:
Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me: has it happened at last?
Two more hours should tell the story. One way or the other. Either I am right and a catastrophe will occur, or it won’t and I’m crazy. In either case the outlook is not so good.
Here I sit, in any case, against a young pine, broken out in hives and waiting for the end of the world. Safe here for the moment though, flanks protected by a rise of ground on the left and an approach ramp on the right. The carbine lies across my lap.
Just below the cloverleaf, in the ruined motel, the three girls are waiting for me.
Undoubtedly something is about to happen.
Or is it that something has stopped happening?
Five minutes ago, I saw an email from a reader who is in an online meeting with the staff at the institution where he works. He is learning that the institution, heretofore apolitical, is now being pushed very hard to the cultural left by an activist contingent within. He says they are taking advantage of the goodness and decency of all who work there, and who truly want to do the right thing on racial matters. The militant leftists within have free reign to dictate terms.
“Nowhere is safe,” he writes, of his profession. “What the f–k am I supposed to do?”
A lot of people are asking that same question. Another reader writes (I have slightly edited this to protect his identity):
My wife and I have been talking the last few days.
How do we fight?
I mean really. This is what we want to do, but with effect, and to the point, we want it to count.
The writer talks about his own institution, and how it will cave instantly the moment the woke mob targets it. He said he went into that line of work hoping to make a difference in people’s lives. Now, it’s all falling down, and falling fast. He continues:
Yet, I’m also a patriot, a citizen, and a man, and I’m looking at the leadership of the political, economic, and chattering class – ON THE RIGHT – and the churches, and all I see is surrender, head in the ass, pretend it isn’t happening, post it to Facebook, nothing burger. Even the conservative Lutherans have now began to put out “we need to listen more” crap, I’m seeing some of my Calvinist friends, hard-core, reformed types, who blacked out their FB images, because….misplaced sympathy, guilt, fear…I don’t know what.
I actually think for some there is real guilt over real racist feelings. I don’t think it is an accident that white liberal or liberalish upper middle class women are the most shrill about this. They are exactly the type of people who when they see a black man get the hee-bee-jeebees.
I, like you, was horribly bullied in school, but unlike you I found my tongue and later my muscles would protect me if I fought back. I learned to fight dirty and with spite, and I did some pretty evil bullying in my day, so the mob would leave me the hell alone. By my junior year in high school, I began to knock it off and repent, sitting in my little Baptist church on Sunday and hearing the Gospel was the ONLY thing that saved me. I’ve been on both sides of that cruel knife. Last night my son couldn’t sleep, he’s 7, he’s terrified from over hearing the news and occasional snippets of my wife and I’s conversation that the mob was coming to come and kill us and burn our house down. Not remotely likely, but I’m an historian by training – I increasingly think unless these gets done soon, we will be headed toward real violence. This isn’t 1968. We don’t have veterans of WWII in positions of power and we don’t have a Christian culture permeating American society. Likely Americans are easily bored, distracted, and now a-days, lazy.
Those behind this unrest will not rest however.
SO, the question of the hour is –
I want to fight back meaningfully, and I see no one, to help.
I have been trying to push back my whole life in my little Thomas Gray’s Churchyard kind of way, but it is not enough.
Short of going into the street with a gun and shooting these people, what options have those in power and positions of authority and influence have left us. I mean, what, I’m supposed to just repost Tucker Carlson on Facebook and retweet links to The American Mind while the country burns?
I think the difference between now and the past is – we don’t know our neighbors, we don’t have friends among our neighbors, the atomization of our society means we can’t form the committees of public safety and correspondence, the neighborhood watches, and the meetings on the village green – and so now, what do we do?
You and other pundits are calling for action, so put your money on the table.
Buy your book?
I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but what are we the average man and woman to do, I live in a part of the country I’m not from, I don’t know most people outside of my job and my church, our numbers are spiking up 30% yesterday, and many of the people in my own conservative church are starting to by into the silence=violence, white privilege bullsh*t, so what am I to do?
I am asking this in all humility, I am at a loss as to what to do to save my country and my civilization without seeking to harm people in other communities.
All the things we were supposed to do as good conservatives, and orthodox Christian were blind alleys and dead-ends, something I began to realize about 10-12 years ago, and the few things I thought would help have failed miserably.
My other fear, is if I were back home, where I know people, and know the lay of the land….my local conservative friends and family members would be too busy, too comfortable, too afraid to actually do anything, even if the mob came to their town. They would defend their shop or home, but there it would end, and only when the mob was in their front yard.
If we love ourselves and the treasure of our own culture as much as they hate us and it, we will find the guts to fight.
Well, how do we fight? God has put you and others in positions of intellectual or political leadership, how are you going to use this vocation.
If there is nothing more than don’t live by lies and die a martyr, that’s fine for the Christian side of my being, but my Scotch-Irish ancestors are all screaming, the hell that there is, if we were going to die martyrs for the color orange were going to die fighting!
The short answer is: I don’t know.
I am not a political person. I have political views, but I don’t have a deep interest in politics and how it works. I am more attuned to religion and culture. That’s where my passions lie. Over the past few years, my political pessimism has grown as I have watched the Republican Party, the only political party in which social and religious conservatives have any voice at all, fail to defend principles and institutions that ought to be defended. As readers of The Benedict Option know, I had my red pill moment with the GOP when I learned from a face to face meeting in Washington that post-Obergefell, the Republicans in the House and Senate had no plans at all for legislation that would shore up religious liberty protections around religious schools and other institutions. They are afraid.
Notice right now that none, or almost none, of the Republican political leaders are speaking out against this progressive putsch. They are hoping that it will all go away, and that after Trump, they can get back to tax cuts and serving corporations, while making impotent gestures of support to religious and social conservatives. But this is not going to work. The game is up. Trump has been a terrible strategist and tactician, but he emerged because of some real and genuine grievances. Those aren’t going to go away.
My political pessimism comes from my religious pessimism, or rather, my pessimism about the loss of Christianity in the United States. In The Benedict Option, I quoted statistics, and made an argument that Christianity was very thin in contemporary America — that it was mostly a façade. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, they call it. From the book:
Smith and Denton claimed that MTD is colonizing existing Christian churches, destroying biblical Christianity from within, and replacing it with a pseudo-Christianity that is “only tenuously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition.”
MTD is not entirely wrong. After all, God does exist, and He does want us to be good. The problem with MTD, in both its progressive and its conservative versions, is that it’s mostly about improving one’s self-esteem and subjective happiness and getting along well with others. It has little to do with the Christianity of Scripture and tradition, which teaches repentance, self-sacrificial love, and purity of heart, and commends suffering—the Way of the Cross—as the pathway to God. Though superficially Christian, MTD is the natural religion of a culture that worships the Self and material comfort.
As bleak as Christian Smith’s 2005 findings were, his follow-up research, a third installment of which was published in 2011, was even grimmer. Surveying the moral beliefs of 18-to-23-year-olds, Smith and his colleagues found that only 40 percent of young Christians sampled said that their personal moral beliefs were grounded in the Bible or some other religious sensibility.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the beliefs of even these faithful are biblically coherent. Many of these “Christians” are actually committed moral individualists who neither know nor practice a coherent Bible-based morality.
An astonishing 61 percent of the emerging adults had no moral problem at all with materialism and consumerism. An added 30 percent expressed some qualms but figured it was not worth worrying about. In this view, say Smith and his team, “all that society is, apparently, is a collection of autonomous individuals out to enjoy life.”
This kind of Christianity is not prepared to suffer for the faith. It doesn’t even know what the faith is. How, then, can we expect a meaningful defense of any principles from Republican politicians when the churches themselves have been hollowed out?
This e-mail from a reader this morning (which I publish with the reader’s permission) really brought that home:
I read your recent article and discovered that Nikki Oliver was one of the CHAZ leaders. She used to be a friend back in high school in Indiana. It is so sad to hear the news.We fell out of touch. I don’t have the story after high school. She used to be an outspoken Christian who attended a non-denominational megachurch. The theology was fairly shallow and eventually, they built an even bigger church down the road. Our public school, Pike High School, was decidedly liberal. The school was huge–almost 3,000 kids by the time I graduated. It was very diverse–racially, socially, and economically. If you got into an honors or AP course, the education was decent but incredibly secular. Outside of that elite group of students, it was just a daycare center for big kids. Nikki and I were in the elite group. We were both “good” church kids at the time (I was in a liberal mainline UMC church that lived, breathed, and died fuzzy moralism).I could go on and say much more, but to be concise, the dogs of the public school and the academy (it appears) consumed her and the church gave her no real foundation. I was just like her (actually she was kinder and more “Christian” than I was back then), but by the grace of God, before “leaving” Christianity, I realized I couldn’t leave something I didn’t know. “Mere Christianity” caught my eye at a bookstore and after a long journey, I am now in a PCA church that has blessed me more than I could imagine.My point is this: As you know, most of the “churches” out there will not be able to counter the secular forces in the world. I can’t imagine sending my kids to a public school nowadays. We need strong Christian institutions. We need strong churches that are in but definitely not of the world. We need strong schools. As a business owner, I also know there will soon be a day when the mob may come for me. We must be prepared and be prepared to suffer. Nikki’s story and countless stories like her’s have spiritually hollowed out my generation.Whether Trump wins in 2020 or delays the rise of the leftist totalitarians until 2024, the question is now not if but when they will come to power. This is a sad time for our society, but perhaps, it will be an opportunity for a smaller but more beautiful church to shine its light more clearly than ever.
A couple of years ago, an acquaintance of mine drifted slowly into the alt-right. This transition began with his own reactions against the elite anti-racism movement and the Democratic party. At first I was able to have very interesting conversations with him about his concerns, his growing sense of isolation, and his defensiveness and anger (which I completely understood and in many cases agreed with). It was even refreshing to have conversations with him.But then it somehow tipped into strikingly different territory. He crossed a line into what I’d actually call white nationalism.This is a heartbreaking thing to watch: to see a previously sensible, smart, kind, and nuanced person descend into spewing a sort of ethnocentric vitriol that denigrates others, while using valid concerns that I truly agree with as their justifying axioms. It feels like you’re going insane.I had honestly always imagined (wrongly) that a white nationalist looked a certain way (like a mug shot of a serial killer, essentially), and had just always existed as such; but my friend’s journey in that direction was slow and subtle and even influenced by such small things as a couple of first coffee dates with super-woke girls he didn’t like. (This friend is not a Christian, so I don’t really know how that would affect the situation. I have to hope that perhaps with others for whom this is a risk, belief in Christ could steer them away from this kind of self-destructive and other-destructive idolatry.)But with the woke movement pushing more and more destructive dynamics (and showing no sign of slowing those), I see whispers of the potential for these beginnings in other people as well. I have another friend with a family member she’s worried is headed down a similar road, so I know I’m not the only one concerned about this and worried about loved ones taking a very destructive course. How can we offer a healthier response to the culture war, before people get to the white-nationalist point? Any advice/resources would be appreciated.
He was also a perfect target for someone who could be inducted into white nationalist ideology: an early-20’s white guy with a good bullsh*t detector, socially insecure, frustrated with his singleness, without much strong community network, without faith, coming from a broken family background, not sure where he fit in the world – my impression is that he didn’t have much to hang his hat on.I suspect that when he realized what was happening – that people like him had become the scapegoats for woke elites’ claims that, by and large, were actually a violent power grab made in the name of “justice” – he just cracked at some point and likely threw his lot in with the only folks he saw who would offer him a valued place in their group. (This reminds me of ISIS’ recruiting tactics and targets.) I think having a strong community, or a family, or a faith, or a group of some sort gives most of us who are frightened of the coming (already here?) soft totalitarianism some ability to maintain our reason better, and not adopt an actively hostile ideology ourselves. But it is very frustrating talking to moderate or progressive friends who look at me like I’m crazy when I suggest that the anti-racism movement may be furthering white nationalism, giving fodder to a fringe movement that welcomes people like my old acquaintance, who may believe they have no other safe place to go. That’s not to let him off the hook for his choices (and I’m sure I’m grossly oversimplifying), but I think this is an important danger with the woke movement that doesn’t get talked about much. I’d love to hear your (or readers’) thoughts on that.
So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood—of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one’s family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies—or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one’s children and contemporaries.
And from that day onward he:
- Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.
- Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation not in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf not at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, not in a theatrical role.
- Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can only see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.
- Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.
- Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.
- Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.
- Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question. Will immediately talk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.
- Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed. Of course we have not listed all of the possible and necessary deviations from falsehood. But a person who purifies himself will easily distinguish other instances with his purified outlook.
No, it will not be the same for everybody at first. Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice.
But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude.
And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul—don’t let him be proud of his “progressive” views, don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a merited figure, or a general—let him say to himself: I am in the herd, and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and warm.
UPDATE.3: From a professor in the comments section:
I am a full professor in the humanities at a major private university. Everyone on this blog would likely recognize my name if I published it here.
I’ve decided that at this point my life–I am in my late 50s–that proactively fighting is just not worth it for me. Over a decade ago I suffered a severe depressive episode after a student at my school sought to destroy me online by publishing, without my permission, a kindly penned private note to her. (It involved a “woke” topic. But I’ll just leave it at that). In any event, it seemed like hell for about two weeks, suffering night terrors, severe insomnia, excruciating brain zaps in the middle of the night, etc. I could have turned her into the provost’s office for violating the university’s honor code. But I knew if I did that I would create my own Streisand effect. Thus, I thought to myself, just suffer for a little while and it will go away. It did. But the episode changed me immensely.
So, with BLM and its insane sycophantic Jonestown-like disciples, I will not go out of my way to cause trouble, such as asking my university president difficult questions, boycotting the school’s required diversity training, and so forth. However, I will not lie, and I will not confess things I do not believe. That, of course, may be enough to attract negative attention from “the Woman.” (Take note: it’s not “the Man” anymore). So be it. I have a nice chunk of change in savings, retirement, and investments, and I am confident that I can find work at lower ranked institutions that would be more than happy to hire me. So for me, it’s not a question of money or finding work. It’s the emotional toll. I want to continue writing, doing first rate scholarship, and try as best I can to contribute to my discipline.
As far as my students go, I will continue to teach in a “Benedict Option” way, trying the best I can to “strengthen the things that remain” (Rev. 3) and pass on to them the best that has been thought, believed, and lived in Western Civilisation. My experience has been that students are hungry for such direction, but you have to present it to them in a way what meets them where they are at. You cannot presuppose anything. For this reason, I have found creative ways to introduce them to ancient and modern ideas that do not directly address contemporary concerns. As they say, I try to find “the thin edge of the wedge” and pound away, using self-deprecating humor, personal anecdotes, and a sense of joy in my teaching. (Don’t ever, I mean ever, underestimate the attractiveness and power of exhibiting love for one’s students). This results in them letting their guard down. (We used to call it in the old days “being open minded.” Back then “being closed minded” was considered disgraceful. Now it’s an essential qualification for employment at the New York Times. Go figure). On the other hand, I will not compromise in my lectures or acquiesce to altering my curricular plan to meet the non-academic demands of the Office of Diversity and Equity (if such demands in fact arise, though they have not yet). I realize that I can not avoid them forever, that at some point they will likely try to force me to confess my allegiance to their bizarre Uncivil Religion. At that point, I will be among my blessed predecessors, including Socrates, Jesus, St. Peter, St. Paul, and Dante. What an honor.
UPDATE.4: From a reader I know personally, and who correctly says she cannot identify herself:
Very few of us have practical freedom of speech anymore. Sure, the constitution lets us say it, but what good is that if it gets us mobbed?
I have been turning the “what to do??” question over in my head for months, years, really. I have no position of influence, no interest in politics, and no talents as an author. I do have a presence on social media both socially and commercially, and I keep the two separate for the most part. I detest virtue-signaling with all of my being and absolutely refuse to jump on bandwagons. The recent posting of black squares had me dislocating my eyes I rolled them so hard. This time I did learn that it’s not enough to be silent. I continued to post ordinary Instagram posts and refrained from making comments on any of the myriad black-square posts from my friends and family. This did not go unnoticed. As you’ve said many times, it’s not enough to refrain from dissension, one must JOIN IN. After 48 hours I had enough and disabled my account. I stopped posting on FB well over a year ago and blog extremely infrequently now. I have no voice.
The big thing in my favor is our livelihood is a safe one, not (yet) threatened by the woke mob. I have true sympathy for those in dangerous professions.
So what *can* I do? Frankly, I think I’ve come up with the most effective way to fight back in my power: I’m raising a pack of non-woke kids. We homeschool. We participate at church. We haven’t had cable in at least a decade. We talk about the stuff that goes on in the world. They learn about bias and considering context and source. They learn how words and statistics can be manipulated. They learn that just because you see it online doesn’t mean it’s true. They learn that the world is not black and white, but all shades of grey. They know that paradise will never be found in this fallen world. They learn that no matter what, you must be kind, generous, polite, forgiving, even to those who wish you evil. They learn that the most important things in life aren’t to be rich, to “follow your dreams”, or to achieve what the world seems success, but to love God, to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” to love and serve others, to follow the examples of the saints of the Church. That is where true happiness lies anyway.
Of course I worry how things will all turn out; what parent doesn’t? I do my best and ask God to supply my deficiencies. So far we have a few young adults amongst the oldest and things look hopeful. I had previously taken the stance that I would support whatever they wanted to do, career/education-wise without trying to do the steering, but now I’m gently pointing out pitfalls in some professions (like academia, medicine, etc.) where they’re likely to be taken out for being Christians.
It’s all I can do, but if we all did this, there would be a cohort of stronger, less sway-able adults in the near future, able to withstand the coming storm.
UPDATE.5: From a reader:
I see a lot of black Christians, including in my own church, and I see that their faith, their family, their community, their politics and their activism and their witness are all in the same place, all in accord, mutually strengthening. These people are not the white woke militants and definitely not the violent rioters of any color. These are decent community people and devout believers. They can stand without weapons in front of militarised police, not because they’re hyped up on adrenalin or on deflected, externalised self-hatred, but by a surrender to God’s will and a knowledge that they’ve endured much worse in the past, including the recent past.So what do we do – I’m guessing most of your readers are not in that demographic. Most of your readers are in atomised lives, with ‘modern, complicated’ fragmented family histories, tenuously attached to tenuous communities, and not quite sure if they can trust the moral authority of whatever church they’ve attached themselves to, consumer-like, at this point in their lives [sorry Rod – and that applies to me too].Plan A would be a time machine where we go back and viciously purge our own churches of the hypocrites, paedophiles, rapists, thieves, shakedown artists, frauds, poseurs and other criminals who gutted our churches of their moral credibility. Go back in time and stand up, speak firmly, speak lovingly, speak in Christ but with a clear voice, against every line that was crossed. Not shout with hatred and condemnation – we did that, and it was about as effective as teargassing priests at an aid station in front of a church and then charging peaceful protestors with mounted police.We don’t have a time machine, so – Plan B – we need to do now what we should have done then, and we need to make up for lost time.The fear of our fellow man is not of God, that fear is the Enemy’s weapon. We need to leave the AR-15s in the safe, and leave our fear with the Enemy, where it belongs, and go out into public spaces, unarmed, open handed, open hearted, in faith. We need to show that we are not afraid and that we don’t need to be feared. We need to show that we will listen, but also gently and firmly insist that we also have a voice that deserves to be heard, and must be heard. We need to speak and act in the belief that the people we are afraid of and who are afraid of us, are our brothers and sisters in Christ, even when they are atheists or Marxists or “Antifa” or whoever.In other words we need to get out in the public square like street preachers. Not concede the public square because of shame or discomfort, or physical fear, but come forth. Come forth not to argue, but to witness. We need to stop hiding, because hiding not only takes away our power to witness to others that we are good people, not to be feared, that we are on the same side, it also makes us invisible and thus allows those other people to imagine that we are the monsters that the divisive people claim we are.So we need to witness and we need to ‘represent’, as black folks say. In the streets and in the public forums; not in our living rooms, not in our social media echo chambers, not on our TV echo chambers, not in the private spaces but in the public spaces. As we should have been doing for the last 50 years, instead of allowing ourselves marginalised and atomised and labelled as the enemy.That’s what I’m trying to do now, just as of the last few days. It’s hard and painful. So far it’s working to the extent that as many people are coming out in support as are “cancelling” me. If that was an “R value” for a virus called Truth-2020, 1.0 is a pretty good R value. I will let you know how it goes.Basically I’m just taking on board your text from Solzhenitsyn and carrying it out. I don’t think there’s much more we can do, and we can’t do any less, or we will fail, and history won’t even remember our names.