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Home/Rod Dreher

The Battle Of Virginia In The Wokeness War

I spent the weekend in the Sacramento area, leading a retreat about The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies. I heard lots of stories from people talking about what wokeness has done to their workplaces, their universities, their kids’ schools, and so forth. As crazy as you think it is, there is always something even more insane. Several people mentioned to me that they wouldn’t risk going into San Francisco anymore. Too dangerous, with “smash and grab” robberies overwhelming the city, and an idiotic progressive DA allowing criminals to overrun the place. One person at the event told me that her kid’s elementary school held a formal ceremony marking the transition of a female child, now called “Charlie” — and no parents had been warned or consulted. An active-duty military person told me that wokeness forced on everyone by the all-woke officer corps is destroying the military. “It’s not the same force it was even two years ago,” the person said.

On that point, I related the quote to two friends I know who are — how to put this? — close to the military. Both emphatically agreed. One of them, someone with a lot of experience, said that it is a scandal that none of the military brass are being held to account by Congress for losing Afghanistan. His view is that commanders are going all-out for wokeness because they are looking forward to going to work for woke defense contractors and other Woke Capitalists. In California, my military interlocutor bitterly complained that the senior officer class doesn’t care about winning wars, only beating down the enlisted ranks with wokeness. Another source told me that his family is filled with men who served in the armed forces across the generations, but now none of them want their kids going anywhere near the military as it is today.

It was that kind of weekend. There were some Silicon Valley folks there, who assured me that everything I said in Live Not By Lies about surveillance capabilities was true, but outdated. One man said, “Basically, you should assume that privacy anywhere is impossible.” Another techie listening in nodded his head. I said to him, “You’re not surprised by that?”

“Nope,” he said. He went on to say that he is deeply closeted as a Christian in his major Silicon Valley firm (a name you would certainly know), and that one of the most important things to understand about the tech industry is that it is an ideological monoculture. “They all think alike, and they are all totally, 100 percent certain that the way they see the world is correct, and that everybody should agree with them,” he said, adding that they are willing to coerce people into living virtuously (by their standards).

On and on like this it went. Yet it was an encouraging event, because it’s so good to be around people who understand how insane the world has gone. You know that you’re not crazy, that other people — good people, normal people — see it too. But boy, what a corrupt country we have become. Decline is inevitable. We talked a bit about how in the USSR, one was not able to tell the truth about things out of fear. Consequently, things quit working. It’s going to happen here too.

I keep wondering when the backlash is going to come, and hoping that it will. Maybe it will start on Tuesday, in the Virginia governor’s race. Virginia is a blue state, but if Republican Glenn Youngkin beats Terry McAuliffe, it will be because normies — including liberal voters — are sick and tired of the woke crap that the Democrats and their allies keep forcing on people. Look at this:

How clear does it have to be to you? What needs to happen to make you see how the woke totalitarians are busy destroying this country, and turning its people against each other?

It is getting more and more absurd. Look at this insanity from the pampered puss Colin Kaepernick, who really believes that NFL training camps is the equivalent of slavery. Watch this clip:


And here is the nitwit chief woke commissar Ibram X. Kendi, who is not smart enough to realize that here he denies that systemic racism is a thing:

This ought to discredit him permanently, but of course it won’t. As Arendt said in The Origins of Totalitarianism, facts don’t matter to a pre-totalitarian polity.

Every institution the woke control, they poison — and they lie about it. Look:

It is impossible to overstate how significant it is that the woke totalitarians control institutions. Take a look at this new document from the American Medical Association, advising doctors and health care personnel on how to speak. Excerpt:

Do you see what’s happening here? They are jamming up plain language with ideological concepts. They are trying to make clear thinking impossible. This is not the Gender Studies department at NYU. This is the American Medical Association! One of the most fundamental concepts to grasp with totalitarianism is that the control of language is vital to the achievement and maintenance of power. The woke totalitarians keep going from strength to strength because having achieved the high ground of institutional authority, they make everyone else fear for their livelihood if they speak out.

The problem is, if we don’t speak out, we will lose our freedom, and we will deserve to. I am hoping that a Youngkin victory tomorrow will be the start of backlash. It won’t be nearly enough, but it would be a sign of hope. If McAuliffe loses a blue state like Virginia, it will be over education, and over parents — including liberal parents — getting sick and tired of the lies, the race-hatred, the manipulation, and the abuse of institutional power to propagandize and indoctrinate the next generation. It will show the way for Republicans to run in 2022 against wokeness.

But — and this is a big “but” — it will do no good if conservatives are given political power by voters and fail to use it to dismantle soft totalitarianism. The Right needs to use the power of government — the only institution we might control — to fight back, and fight back hard. Rhetoric is not enough. Look around you: our military is in decline because of ideologization; our universities have been captured by bigots and fanatics; Big Business is taking advantage of the liberties that our capitalist nation grants them to politicize the culture and institutionalize racism and mediocrity within corporate culture — and so on. We can no longer simply denounce this stuff. We are in a fight for the soul of our nation. To have been with the crowds out in northern California, and to have heard testimonies from flesh-and-blood people about the things they are seeing with their own eyes, and suffering — it all becomes very real then. It’s not just something you read about on the Internet.

Let’s hope and pray that tomorrow’s vote in Virginia will be the beginning of the turning point in this war. We don’t have forever, you know. I’m at the National Conservatism conference in Orlando now, and will be giving a talk in the morning about what American conservatives can learn from Viktor Orban in Hungary. I’ll post that talk here tomorrow after I deliver it.

 

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Human Resources As Grand Inquisitor

I thought I was done here for the week, but I just got something from a reader, and it’s powerful. He writes:

I’ll get straight to the point, because I hardly know where to begin.  My sister-in-law works for Vail Resorts, which is imposing a vaccine mandate on its employees.  Her coworker, whose name I am protecting because I don’t want to jeopardize her job any more than it already is, applied for a religious exemption.  The co-worker received this very odd and intrusive reply, a screenshot of which I’ve attached.
The reader continues:
Questioning someone’s religious sincerity, especially someone you have very little or no personal relationship with, is a delicate matter that should be treated as such, to say the least.  This response is clearly in bad faith and is emblematic of a tendency under this vaccine mandate to treat all religious objectors as guilty until proven innocent.
If this precedent is allowed to go unchallenged, imagine how it can be expanded and used for other attacks on religious freedom, with the force of law behind them to coerce a “choice” between compliance and eradication:
If you, Christian school, object to hiring this openly homosexual teacher because it violates Christian teaching on sexuality, have you ever or will you ever hire a divorcee or someone who has had premarital or extramarital sex? 
 
If you, Hobby Lobby, refuse to fund health care plans that pay for abortions on the grounds that all human life is sacred, have you ever voiced or will you voice equal opposition to the death penalty?
 
The point is not whether or not these are good questions to wrestle with from a moral perspective, and indeed, all believers should.  The point is, who the hell is some corporate HR lackey to arbitrate the nature of one’s belief based on the answers?  Are they going to drug test this poor woman going forward, to make sure she doesn’t take any over-the-counter medications on penalty of being fired?  This disingenuous assault on faith is what is being done to individuals around the country both in the federal government and private businesses; we cannot allow ourselves to be divided by vaccination status in how we respond to this hostile attack on religious belief.  First they came for the unvaccinated, but I already had my vaccine, so I didn’t speak out…
You tell me: does this line of questioning look like that of an organization fairly and neutrally evaluating religious exemptions, or does it look like they are designed to be traps with which to imply insincerity and hypocrisy, and so deny exemptions?  Keep in mind the law solely speaks to sincerity of belief, not logical consistency.  Logical consistency in nearly all faith-based systems is almost impossible to prove, and the less familiar one is with the system, the less likely one is to recognize the nuances that allow seeming contradictions to coexist.  Again, is this something the government or HR is qualified to assess, especially with these types of questions?
We extend accommodations to certain other protected groups with almost no validation of belief whatsoever, despite glaring logical inconsistencies; this is a uniquely religious persecution.  Don’t believe me?  Identify as a woman and demand access to any role or physical space reserved for that gender, and see if any HR bureaucrat asks whether you’re on hormone treatments and how long you’ve been on them, or if you intend to keep your penis.
This is truly alarming, and what so much of our country is tolerating in the name of fear and safety comes as a punch to the gut.  What legal recourse is there to this kind of abuse of power?  How can we band together?
This sneering, condescending letter from the Human Resources department — which, as the reader observes, would never address a transgendered person this way — is an indication of where religious believers stand in America today.
Indeed, how can we band together? Thoughts?
UPDATE: I blacked out the name of the HR person.
UPDATE.2: A reader comments:

I’m struck by the cross-purposes these HR departments are working at. My company, as with many others, are threatening termination to those who wont get the vaccine, even for people who work 100% remote. Yet I am also a manager (IT & analysis stuff) having a hell of a time trying to hire right now since there is so much competition for talent. We are forced to substantially raise offers. Plus we are getting a lot of people poached by other firms. Then all over in the service sector like restaurants and hospitality there are help wanted signs and terrible service because they cant stay staffed up, at least where I live.

So honestly, I feel like if you can financially handle it, call their bluff and let them try to terminate you. The companies are already losing talent like crazy in the “great resignation”. Someone is going to find some clever way to hire unvaccinated despite Biden’s order because frankly there aren’t enough workers to go around (unless the feds really change visa policy)

Seriously, companies really cant afford to lose good people now. The workers have a strong hand, play it! If one of my best people refused the vaccine I would be fighting HR with all my might to get an exception for them. It’s easy for HR to act like this, but actual operational managers aren’t going to be so ideological when someone good is getting axed over something so dumb.

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Mircea Eliade On The Meaning Of Temples

From the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Armed Forces (Source)

(Readers, I didn’t want to end this week on a sour note. Below is an adapted piece from my Substack blog: further thoughts on Mircea Eliade’s great book “The Sacred and the Profane”.)

Eliade says that temples exist symbolically “at the center of the world” because they are where man establishes communication with the transcendent realm. It’s not that man can’t talk to God in other places and in other ways, but the temple is a special place set apart. The temple often represents a sacred mountain where the initial meeting with God happened. For traditional Christians, churches are a representation of Golgotha, and therefore “the pre-eminent ‘link’ between earth and heaven.” Obviously there are countless churches in the world, so understand that they all exist at the center of the world in a symbolic, mythic sense.

This jumped out at me because it is easy to see how the older, sacramental forms of Christianity conform to this global pattern. The death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the core of the religion, and is re-enacted every time there is a liturgy at the altar. The altar is Golgotha, which is part of Mount Moriah, on which the city of Jerusalem is built. When you take the sacramentality out of the religion, as many forms of Protestantism have, it wrecks the symbolism. How can a church that looks like a theatrical space do the symbolic work it is supposed to do? Does it matter? I think it surely must.

You’ll remember, maybe, the lovely line from an older black lady running the dry cleaners in my hometown, St. Francisville, when my then-priest brought Orthodox liturgical vestments to her for the first time: “Ooooh-weee, those look like they got God all over them!” Yes, exactly! (Father Matthew, from Washington state, was amazed and delighted to go on to discuss the Old Testament in detail with this same woman, who had only a high school education.) Physical space, visual imagery, sounds, smells — these things matter. They aren’t the same thing as God, but they prepare us, consciously and subconsciously, to enter into communion with Him. The fact that traditional religions of all kinds, around the world, build temples that don’t look the same, but which symbolically perform the same function, is anthropologically meaningful, don’t you think?

Let me be clear: it’s not that God is not with people who worship in low-church Protestant temples; it’s that the structures perhaps make it harder for the worshipers to feel God’s presence. This matters for my book project, because I am trying to figure out how we can re-enchant the world, and live more like “religious man” (Eliade’s term) lived in the premodern era. The Protestantization of worship spaces, and the de-sacramentalization of some forms of Christianity, likely contributed to the disenchantment of the world. It wasn’t on purpose — nobody can accuse the Puritans, for example, of wanting to push God out of the world — but their theology, and horror at things that smacked of papistry, might have led them to throw out too much.

(Notice I qualify all these conclusions with “might,” etc., because I don’t want to make firm statements without more research. This newsletter, re: Eliade, is basically a notebook.)

Eliade discusses how for religious man, even his home must be configured religiously, that is to say, to bring it closer to the Center Of The World by making it a place that looks like where God dwells. In Orthodoxy, it is customary for an Orthodox home to have an icon corner, which functions as a kind of home altar. This is where the family gathers to pray. Eliade talks about how the modernist architect Le Corbusier described the home as “a machine to live in,” and goes on to say that the desacralization of the home is part of the greater desacralization of the cosmos by industrial, Enlightenment, scientific thought. He wonders if “this secularization of nature is really final, if no possibility remains for nonreligious man to rediscover the sacred dimension of existence in the world.” My task in this book is to discover what nonreligious man needs to do to rediscover it — and what religious man needs to do both to ground himself more deeply in the religious sense, and to make true religion more inviting to nonreligious man.

We know that a religion that accommodates itself to a desacralized, profane world is not attractive to non-religious people … but at the same time, very many of them don’t want to do what it takes to be authentically religious. This is a challenge for us. Intuitively, it seems to me that we have to make our habitation — not just our houses, but the world we live in — seem more sacred. At the Touchstone conference, a Catholic man from Chicago told me that his parish did a formal procession through a downtown neighborhood, and everybody was staring — not in a hostile way, but in a “what is that?” sense. Most had never seen such a thing, I would wager.

Church historian Robert Louis Wilken, in his great 2004 essay “The Church As Culture,” writes:

If Christian culture is to be renewed, habits are more vital than revivals, rituals more edifying than spiritual highs, the creed more penetrating than theological insight, and the celebration of saints’ days more uplifting than the observance of Mother’s Day. There is great wisdom in the maligned phrase ex opere operato, the effect is in the doing. Intention is like a reed blowing in the wind. It is the doing that counts, and if we do something for God, in the doing God does something for us.

The poet Dana Gioia, the current director of the National Endowment for the Arts, puts it nicely in the poem “Autumn Inaugural”:

There will always be those who reject ceremony,
who claim that resolution requires no fanfare,
those who demand the spirit stay fixed
like a desert saint, fed only on faith,
to worship in no temple but the weather.

Gioia acknowledges the point:

Symbols betray us.
They are always more or less than what
is really meant.

Then:

But shall there be no
processions by torchlight because we are weak?

Praise to the rituals that celebrate change,
old robes worn for new beginnings,
solemn protocol where the mutable soul,
surrounded by ancient experience,
grows young in the imagination’s white dress.

Because it is not the rituals we honor
but our trust in what they signify, these rites
that honor us as witnesses—whether to watch
lovers swear loyalty in a careless world
or a newborn washed with water and oil.

If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the faces of angels, turned toward the face of God.

Beautifully said!

Eliade writes (emphasis in the original):

In the last analysis, it is by virtue of the temple that the world is resanctified in every part. However impure it may have become, the world is continually purified by the sanctity of sanctuaries.

I believe that the presence of God wherever He is worshipped — a fine Gothic cathedral or a storefront Pentecostal church — resanctifies the world. But churches that look like churches, and are thereby set apart visually from all other buildings, convey to everyone, even nonbelievers, that God is present. Consider these two Lutheran churches in Oslo, Norway:

Which one sanctifies the city? From a purely spiritual point of view, none of us can say. But from a symbolic point of view, the answer is obviously the one on top. It looks like a temple. In fact, Eliade explains that in traditional religious cultures, temples usually have a symbolic opening to the sky, to convey the sense that there is a passage between the building and heaven. The architect of the church on the bottom (and those who hired him to do that work) have lost a sense of the symbolic world and why it matters. It’s not just that the church on the bottom is ugly. It’s that it does not do what a church is supposed to do in terms of directing the thoughts of those inside and outside of it to the sacred. The church on the bottom is a modern church because its architects (and those who hired them) have discarded the grammar of sacred architecture. They’re speaking symbolic gobbledygook.

Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.” Eliade goes on to talk about how traditionally, the church building represents the cosmos. It’s not simply a building in which believers worship. The traditional church “both incarnates and sanctifies the world,” he writes.

“[T]he experience of sacred space makes possible the ‘founding of the world’: where the sacred manifests itself in space, the real unveils itself, the world comes into existence,” Eliade writes. In case you’ve forgotten since the last newsletter, by “the real,” Eliade means the belief of religious man that ultimate reality is part of the unseen realm undergirding all visible reality. By “the founding of the world,” he means giving form and stable meaning to the world in which the religious man dwells.

Eliade (emphases in original):

Every world is the work of the gods, for it was either created directly by the gods or was consecrated, hence cosmicized, by men ritually reactualizing the paradigmatic act of Creation. This is as much as to say that religious man can live only in a sacred world, because it is only in such a world that he participates in being, that he has a real existence. This religious need expresses an unquenchable ontological thirst. Religious man thirsts for being. His terror of the chaos that surrounds his inhabited world corresponds to his terror of nothingness. The unknown space that extends beyond his world — an uncosmicized because unconsecrated space, a mere amorphous extent into which no orientation has yet been projected, and hence in which no structure has yet arisen — for religious man, this profane space represents absolute nonbeing. If, by some evil chance, he strays into it, he feels emptied of his ontic substance, as if he were dissolving in Chaos, and he finally dies.

This passage made me wonder about something. I believe that man is naturally religious. I believe that on both theological and anthropological grounds. We cannot entirely dispel the religious instinct. Wokeness, for example, cannot fully be understood unless you admit its pseudoreligious elements; the craving for a sense of ultimate justice, meaning, and moral structure runs too deep. Wokeness is not a religion, but it mimics one. I am wondering if the disintegration of the West is happening because we have slowly bled out our “ontic substance” as we have grown assimilated into a world built physically, and interiorly, on profane assumptions, and as Christianity has declined both in numbers and in belief.

In simpler language, are we disintegrating as a civilization because we have lost our relationship with God? It has been widely observed that primitive tribes often do not survive their encounter with modernity. If they live on biologically, it is often in a state of chaos, misery, and sometimes substance addiction. The shattering of their cosmos was spiritually unsurvivable. I read not long ago an account of this happening to a traditional Eskimo village, I believe it was. Everybody there just kind of gave up. Even though their lives became materially easier thanks to technology and money, the sudden loss of their traditional way of life was devastating. Maybe we Westerners did not fall apart because it did not come upon us suddenly … but it has eventually caught up with us. Now we live in metaphysical, spiritual, and moral chaos, the seriousness of which is somewhat concealed by our wealth. We cannot reverse the unwinding without recovering the sacred. If we can.

This, by the way, is the view of the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, who is not a religious believer. Yet he believes as a matter of anthropological and sociological truth that human societies must be religious, or they die. Louis Betty is an American scholar of French literature who wrote a very good book on Houellebecq as a pessimistic novelist of post-Christian culture. I interviewed him here. This is what Betty said when I asked him about Houllebecq’s conviction that irreligious societies eventually wind down:

Here it’s important, I think, to distinguish between religion as a human phenomenon and the specific case of Christianity in Europe. I don’t think such a thing as a “society without religion,” in the sense of having a metaphysical framework, really exists; to me, that’s akin to imagining a society without a language, or some notion of kinship, or ways of preparing food. I’m not an anthropologist, but it seems clear that any human society worthy of the adjective “human” is going to articulate some metaphysical system that makes sense of reality and offers consolation and a sense of meaning in the midst of natural vicissitude.

In the case of Christianity in Europe, I think the question to ask is something like this: can a civilization maintain its identity if it sheds its native religion? Houellebecq doesn’t think so, and neither do I. This isn’t a political or polemical point. Imagine taking as an anthropological platitude the claim that human beings will be religious and, moreover, that civilizations are built upon the metaphysical systems they create (or which are revealed to them, to give credit to the metaphysical on its own terms). It’s obvious from such an assumption that the collapse of the metaphysics entails the eventual collapse of everything else. This should be deeply alarming to anyone who cares about the West’s tradition of humanitarianism, which emerges—and it would be wonderful if we could all agree on this—out of the original Judaic notion of imago Dei and later from Christian humanism. Secular humanism has been running for quite some time on the fumes of the Judeo-Christian religious inheritance, but it’s not clear how much longer that can go on.

Honestly, it’s frightening to think what a truly post-Christian West would mean for our basic institutions. I’m not stumping for Christianity here; I just happen to have the intellectual conviction that the analysis of human society begins with religion. If you incline toward Marxian thinking, which looks at things in the diametrically opposed way, you’re going to hate what I’m saying. But that’s how I see it.

In this passage from a 2003 TED talk (21 minutes), the anthropologist and popular writer Wade Davis explains inadvertently Eliade’s point about how for traditional religious man, the world in which we live bears cosmic meaning, and trains us to live by the sacred:

Now, of all the peoples that I’ve ever been with, the most extraordinary are the Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia. Descendants of the ancient Tairona civilization which once carpeted the Caribbean coastal plain of Colombia, in the wake of the conquest, these people retreated into an isolated volcanic massif that soars above the Caribbean coastal plain. In a bloodstained continent, these people alone were never conquered by the Spanish. To this day, they remain ruled by a ritual priesthood but the training for the priesthood is rather extraordinary. The young acolytes are taken away from their families at the age of three and four, sequestered in a shadowy world of darkness in stone huts at the base of glaciers for 18 years: two nine-year periods deliberately chosen to mimic the nine months of gestation they spend in their natural mother’s womb; now they are metaphorically in the womb of the great mother. And for this entire time, they are inculturated into the values of their society, values that maintain the proposition that their prayers and their prayers alone maintain the cosmic — or we might say the ecological — balance. And at the end of this amazing initiation, one day they’re suddenly taken out and for the first time in their lives, at the age of 18, they see a sunrise. And in that crystal moment of awareness of first light as the Sun begins to bathe the slopes of the stunningly beautiful landscape, suddenly everything they have learned in the abstract is affirmed in stunning glory. And the priest steps back and says, “You see? It’s really as I’ve told you. It is that beautiful. It is yours to protect.” They call themselves the “elder brothers” and they say we, who are the younger brothers, are the ones responsible for destroying the world.

Now, this level of intuition becomes very important. Whenever we think of indigenous people and landscape, we either invoke Rousseau and the old canard of the “noble savage,” which is an idea racist in its simplicity, or alternatively, we invoke Thoreau and say these people are closer to the Earth than we are. Well, indigenous people are neither sentimental nor weakened by nostalgia. There’s not a lot of room for either in the malarial swamps of the Asmat or in the chilling winds of Tibet, but they have, nevertheless, through time and ritual, forged a traditional mystique of the Earth that is based not on the idea of being self-consciously close to it, but on a far subtler intuition: the idea that the Earth itself can only exist because it is breathed into being by human consciousness.

Now, what does that mean? It means that a young kid from the Andes who’s raised to believe that that mountain is an Apu spirit that will direct his or her destiny will be a profoundly different human being and have a different relationship to that resource or that place than a young kid from Montana raised to believe that a mountain is a pile of rock ready to be mined. Whether it’s the abode of a spirit or a pile of ore is irrelevant. What’s interesting is the metaphor that defines the relationship between the individual and the natural world. I was raised in the forests of British Columbia to believe those forests existed to be cut. That made me a different human being than my friends amongst the Kwagiulth who believe that those forests were the abode of Huxwhukw and the Crooked Beak of Heaven and the cannibal spirits that dwelled at the north end of the world, spirits they would have to engage during their Hamatsa initiation.

Obviously I don’t believe in these pagan religions, but I believe that Davis’s account teaches us something about my own religion. If I really believed, as the Orthodox prayer teaches, that God is “everywhere present and fills all things,” I can’t look at the mountain in the same way that the young kid from Montana does, even if the young kid is a Christian. That kid might be a Protestant, or a modern Catholic or modern Orthodox — untrained theologically in their own tradition, and therefore regarding the world through nominalist eyes. Then again, let’s not be unfair to Protestants. It is hard to find an American who treasures the natural world more than Wendell Berry, who is a low-church Protestant. And I don’t think most American Catholics or American Orthodox would think substantially different about the mountain than any Protestant or non-Christian would. We WEIRDoes are all practical nominalists.

What I’m after is the recovery of a vision that sees the world as sacred, really sacred, which means that we cannot make use of it mindlessly, or without limits. To see it as sacred doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but you can’t use it without a sense of reverence. We’ve all heard stories about native hunters who thank the slain deer for giving its life to support the tribe. That’s the kind of reverence I’m talking about. I don’t have much of it myself, but I would like to acquire more. Working on this book is going to be a real journey for me — and for you readers.

If you liked this, I publish my subscription-only Substack newsletter two or three times a week. Click here to subscribe: five dollars per month, or fifty dollars per year. The newsletter focuses on religion and spirituality, and the intersection of that with art and culture.)

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Francis Collins: A Cautionary Tale

Screenshot from Nature magazine, showing scalps of aborted babies transplanted onto lab mice (Nature)

Oh man, what a powerful essay about Francis Collins by Justin Lee:

On June 8, 2019, Francis Collins finger-picked his guitar and sang Andy Grammer’s song “Don’t Give Up On Me” at the memorial service for a young man who had died after a four-year battle with a rare kidney cancer. The man had enjoyed the song, and Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, cared dearly for him. He concluded his performance with an emotional benediction, promising that he would see the young man again and that he and his staff would not give up searching for a cure. This is the kind of man Francis Collins is.

One month earlier, Collins’s NIH had approved a research grant requested by University of Pittsburgh scientists who desired to graft the scalps of aborted fetuses onto rats and mice. Their research findings were published by Nature in September 2020 and include photos showing patches of soft, wispy baby hair growing amid coarse rodent fur. This, too, is the kind of man Francis Collins is.

More:

Collins offered an explanation for why he resigned the directorship: He believes “that no single person should serve in the position too long.” One suspects it also has to do with the firestorm of controversies he’s been embroiled in this year. While it may be possible for reasonable people to disagree about the ethics of embryonic stem cell research, some fruits of the Magician’s worldview—such as human-animal chimeras—are, for almost everyone, beyond the pale.

The University of Pittsburgh’s experiment in “humanizing” rodents with fetal tissue harvested from elective abortions was just one of many such projects funded by the NIH. While this particular study was approved for funding by Anthony Fauci’s NIAID, the buck ultimately stops with Collins. Lest one assume out of charity that these grant approvals were made without Collins’s knowledge, in 2019 Collins opposed the Trump administration’s decision to ban NIH intramural research using fetal tissue and to require grants for extramural research with fetal tissue to be reviewed by an ethics advisory board. Last spring, these restrictions were rescinded with Collins’s full support.

In the year prior to the ban, Collins’s NIH spent $115 million on fetal experimentation, a record for the institute. And since 2016, nearly three million dollars have gone toward establishing the Tissue Hub and Collection Site at the University of Pittsburgh, which traffics fetal organs—including organs from viable and full-term fetuses—from abortion clinics to research facilities. Earlier in Collins’s tenure, the NIH funded the research of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Jörg Gerlach, who pioneered a method of harvesting fresh livers from babies delivered alive at 18 to 22 weeks’ gestation, which he has used in both Italy and the United States. As David Daleiden explains, “these babies either died when they were ‘submerged’ in bags for transport, or after their bodies were cut open to harvest their livers.” The University of Pittsburgh’s house of horrors may seem like an outlier, but the callous treatment of human fetuses is also a consequence of federal regulations. As the human-rodent chimera study notes under the sub-heading “Ethical approval,” “The use of de-identified human fetal tissues did not constitute human subjects research as defined under federal regulations” (emphasis mine). In the same section one learns that greater propriety is shown to rats than to the remains of human children. This is the research culture Francis Collins has been immersed in for much of his career, and it’s the culture he reinforced at the NIH. It is the Magician’s worldview enacted—call it the “Magician’s Praxis.”

 

Read it all. Lee says that even these horrors are not the worst thing Collins has done — and explains why he thinks so.

Lee calls the outspokenly Evangelical Collins “a brother in Christ,” but also says  he is “a tragic figure” and “a cautionary tale.” All of this true. How many of us are Francis Collins, compartmentalizing our professional lives from our religious commitments? As others have said, what is the point of having a faithful Christian rise to positions of great authority if they use it to underwrite abominations like this?

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Amanda, Enemy Of The People

Robin DiAngelo, a leading voice of left-wing racism (Source)

The Woke Temple is a Twitter account run by a liberal who hates wokeness. In a post today, he highlighted this monstrous example of Critical Race Theory. Today he writes:

Here’s what he linked to; the original peer-reviewed paper from which this is taken can be read here. One of the authors, of course, is Robin DiAngelo:

 

 

Critical Race Theory is a racist ideology of totalitarianism. Everywhere you see it, oppose it. Our liberty depends on it, as does justice, and the peace of our country.

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Marion Maréchal: Politics Is Downstream From Culture

Marion Maréchal, future president of France (Source)

Good morning from Sacramento, where I’m here to do a couple of days of workshops. A friend sent me this English translation of an interview with the impressive French right-of-center politician Marion Maréchal. Excerpt:

Tyszka-Drozdowski: In an interview with IM—1776 Thierry Baudet said that Trump (and Boris Johnson) made him “very skeptical of our capacity to achieve anything via democratic means.” The late Angelo Codevilla also claimed, for example, that Trump “barked a lot and bit only a little.” What lessons can populists learn from Trump’s presidency and his failures?

Marion Maréchal: Well, the American system is very different from the French system. Nevertheless, there are two things to keep in mind.

First, the power of the deep state, which is particularly strong in the United States, but which is a problem everywhere. When you win an election, you need to have a machine behind you to implement the policies that the voters voted for. Under Sarkozy’s presidency in France, it was a real drama for the Right to achieve this. But when the left wins, they nominate who they want. That’s what Macron did, he changed a lot of the heads of different services and agencies.

The Right is afraid of doing this. When it comes to power, it’s afraid that it will be called ‘fascist’ and so it does what the left wants. So when the Right was in power in France, the administration remained in the hands of the left. This resulted in a political blockade. The government didn’t get the necessary information, it didn’t have the resources to carry out its policies well.

The secondary element is the intellectual centers, media and universities, where the left reigns supreme. The Right will need to make a great effort to create alternatives here through grassroots, social initiatives. Now in France some right-wing voices are appearing in the mainstream media, but they are still insignificant, timid. Above all, I believe that we must not allow our initiatives to depend on the state, to rely on its resources. We must not allow the end of our government to mean the end of us all. This is a big problem, and the reason why I founded the ISSEP [Note: her school for political training — RD].

Change has to be made from the top down, but it will never succeed if we don’t create islands of resistance from below that persist even when the government changes. It is necessary to build islands of resistance in society; it is through them that we will win. I often quote Gramsci, but it was not only Gramsci who said this: political victory comes only after a cultural victory. There are no political victories without cultural victories.

Read it all. 

Maréchal speaks here of two of the most important things we US conservatives can learn from Viktor Orban.

First, Orban took control of what you might call the “deep state.” He knew that his government would be sabotaged if he did not.

Second, Orban does not care what his political enemies say about him. Maréchal says that right-wing French politicians are afraid of being called “fascist,” and so hesitate. Here in the US, our conservative politicians are afraid of being called “racist,” or “homophobic,” or some form of “bigot,” and so hesitate. This has to stop.

What she did not mention, perhaps out of tact, is that Trump was a poor practical politician and administrator — something Viktor Orban definitely is not. That is to say, Trump didn’t really know what to do with power when he won it. This is a mistake the populist Right in the US must not make again.

Nevertheless, Trump’s election did change a lot of things for the better on the Right. Yesterday I re-read The Benedict Option to prepare for a talk I’m giving out here. That book was published in March 2017, almost two months after Trump’s inauguration. In it, I was mostly negative about what Trump could accomplish, because (in reading the text) I see that I didn’t trust him to do right by social conservatives, especially on the courts. I was wrong about that, I’m happy to say. But mostly I was right in that book about Trump’s inability to reverse course on the great cultural shifts in the US (though to be fair to Trump, I said that it would be hard for any political figure to do that).

What struck me in re-reading TBO, nearly five years after its publication, is how all the things that sparked me to write the book have accelerated since its publication. If anything, Trump only sped up the process by alarming and consolidating wokeness in power. What this tells us politically is that we on the Right, should we come to power again, have to be aggressive in dismantling wokeness wherever we can. And I think the remarkable surge in the state of Virginia for Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, who is now leading the polls, shows that fighting wokeness is a popular cause. Ordinary people of all races are sick and tired of what the Left is doing to our schools and our institutions with their insane race and gender ideologies. Leaders of the Right needs the courage to stop giving a damn what is said about them in elite counsels, and go after these cretins hammer and tongs. For example, the next GOP administration should ramp up a Department of Justice task force to use existing civil rights laws to investigate and file suit against exemplary universities for creating hostile, racist climates on campus for whites, Asians, and others.

For example, this insane, racist video has been making the rounds this week:

What kind of situation do white students who take her class have to deal with? Why should they have to be afraid that their racist Rutgers professor is biased against them because they are white? Neither Rutgers — a state university, mind you, supported by taxpayer funds — nor anybody else would put up with this lunatic for one second if she were white and said these things about non-white people. But it’s so common today that we just accept it and move on. We need a governments at both the state and the federal levels willing to open civil rights investigations against the most egregious cases. Hold these people and the institutions that coddle them responsible. Make them accountable for what they say and do. Viktor Orban used his authority to defund and remove accreditation from gender studies courses in Hungary, because, I imagine, he recognized how the malignant ideology that the produce is tearing the US and the UK apart. For example, just this week, philosophy professor Kathleen Stock resigned at the University of Sussex after being the victim of sustained and vicious attacks by transgender critics and their mindless allies. Amazingly enough, Viktor Orban wants to do what he can within the limits of his powers to prevent this from coming to Hungary:

Anyway, the next conservative administration should come in prepared to attack wokeness comprehensively and effectively. In the past, I would have been extremely reticent for the federal government to involve itself in the life of the university. No more. This has to be stopped.

That said, the struggle against the soft totalitarianism of wokeness is going to be a long one. Yesterday the NYT ran a piece on how Millennial bosses are afraid of their Gen Z employees. Excerpt:

Ms. Rodriguez is one of many managers who recalled her Gen Z employees being the first and most vocal in urging companies to demonstrate their support for the protests after George Floyd’s killing. Tero Isokauppila, 37, president of a food business, heard from junior staff asking if his company would post a black square in solidarity with the movement on Instagram. Elaine Purcell, 34, co-founder of the maternity care start-up Oula, got a Slack message from one of her youngest workers after the shootings at Atlanta-area spas in March asking what the team could do in solidarity with Asian Americans.

To many corporate leaders, this invites a welcome correction after decades when businesses were largely silent on racial inequities both within and outside their offices. But some managers are also struggling to balance the demands of their employees for political engagement with their own sense of what’s appropriate for their brands.

“You talk to older people and they’re like, ‘Dude we sell tomato sauce, we don’t sell politics,’” said Mr. Kennedy, co-founder of Plant People, a certified B corporation. “Then you have younger people being like, ‘These are political tomatoes. This is political tomato sauce.’”

This is political tomato sauce. Yeah, and this is a manifestation of totalitarianism, which is a system in which all aspects of life are politicized. When elites of this generation get into the driver’s seat, these Jacobins are going to drive us off a cliff. This is where the wisdom of Maréchal (quoting Gramsci) comes to the fore: we cannot normally hope for meaningful political victory without cultural dominance first. In the podcast I recorded earlier this week with Sohrab Ahmari, he stood on a position common with the integralists, which is that the law teaches the people. Therefore, according to the theory, pass a law and the people will conform their understanding to it.

I am highly skeptical of that. I told him that his team seems to advocate for the Julian The Apostate Option. Julian was the mid fourth century Caesar who tried to reverse the Christianization of the Empire by suppressing Christianity via edict, and promoting old Roman paganism. The effort did not survive Julian’s death; the cultural forces of change in the Christian direction were too strong. I believe the same thing is happening here. Mind you, history is not fated. God is sovereign, and can do what He wants. We Christians must never stop evangelizing and hoping for a turnaround. Nevertheless, we must also accept that this is rather unlikely, and make plans accordingly. A Polish reader e-mailed yesterday, and sent this tweet:

The Polish reader added:

Ahmari claims that he was “informed” that Poland’s recent abortion laws have shifted public opinion in a pro-life direction. “The people went along with it,” he says, or something similar. I’m sure he believes it but unless every opinion poll since the laws were established has been wrong, the *opposite* is true. I don’t have anything against these guys and didn’t want to make a big thing of this on Twitter or it would descend into a fight, but either they are kidding themselves about the scale of the authoritarianism an actual integralist state would demand — or they are ingeniously trying to shift the Overton Window.

I believe this is true. In fact, one of the most striking things about the Poles I’ve met and talked to in my visits there is how, despite their political and religious (Catholic) conservatism, they are very pessimistic about the long term future of the country. In particular, they — and I’m talking about men and women in their twenties here — have been grieved by how the government’s actions on abortion have radicalized so many of their generation. My closest Polish friend, in his twenties, was denounced harshly by many of his friends simply because he is a pro-life Catholic, and they knew it.

In any case, we on the Right have a civilizational battle ahead of us, one that is going to last at least the rest of this century, I think. Politics is part of it, because law sets the framework in which these battles take place. But if we depend only, or even mostly, on law, we will get nowhere. We have to work symphonically with politics to renew culture, and at ground that means renewing religion. This, of course, is where The Benedict Option comes in, and why St. Benedict is such an important model for us. One of the key political goals we have to fight for is passing laws protecting institutions that do the work of cultural and religious formation, especially in the face of woke fanaticism. But then we also have to do that actual work.

Last night here in Sacramento I went to dinner with some folks, and heard a few shocking stories about actual people they know who lost their livelihoods because they got on the wrong side of the woke in the smallest of ways. I won’t give details, out of respect for my hosts’ privacy, but these cases they discussed even shocked me, and I’m hard to shock. In two of the cases, the victims did things that were perfectly normal yesterday, but when they committed the acts that got them cancelled, inadvertently crossed new lines that had appeared overnight. You think it won’t happen to you, and the next thing you know you are jobless, and none of your colleagues will touch you because they are afraid that the mob will come for them.

In his latest column, David Brooks writes:

Modern progressivism is in danger of becoming dominated by a relatively small group of people who went to the same colleges, live in the same neighborhoods and have trouble seeing beyond their subculture’s point of view.

If you want a simple way to see the gap between this subculture and the rest of the country, look at Rotten Tomatoes. People who write critically about movies and shows often have different tastes than the audiences around them, especially when politics is involved.

“Hillbilly Elegy” was a movie in which the hero was widely known, in real life, to be a Republican. Audiences liked the movie fine. It has an 83 percent positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Culture writers frequently loathed it. It has a 25 percent positive critics’ score. That’s a 58-point gap.

Dave Chappelle recently released a comedy special that took comic potshots at almost everyone. Audiences adored it. It has a 96 percent positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes (though admittedly it’s unclear how many of the raters actually watched it). A small group of people found it a moral atrocity and the current critic score is 44 percent positive. That’s a 52-point gap.

A more significant example of the subculture gap recently occurred at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Seventy-three percent of American adults believe race or ethnicity should not be a factor in college admissions decisions, including 62 percent of Black adults, according to a 2019 Pew survey. And yet Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist, was recently disinvited from giving a lecture at M.I.T. about climate science because he’s publicly defended this majority point of view. In other words, the views of the large majority of Americans are not even utterable within certain academic parts of the progressive subculture.

It’s important to understand that this is not just “modern progressivism” he’s talking about, but the culture of institutional elites in the US. They’re 100 percent down with wokeness — and are destroying their institutions, and poisoning the minds of the young with racial hatred and destructive ideas about gender. The kind of populism that can win elections, I think, is one that in part takes on this destructive insanity with vigor — and doesn’t just rant about it, but promises specific policy goals to dismantle wokeness and its pomps and works, all in the name of old-fashioned American ideals like fairness and equality before the law. Why are so many Republican elites so afraid?

This will not come from the Left; it has to come from the Right. I will support politicians who show the willingness and, like Orban, the capacity to do this. Meanwhile, my focus will remain on building what Marion Maréchal calls building the “islands of resistance from below.” It’s not an either-or, but a both-and. By all means keep voting and keep being active in the public square — but don’t forget that you can rack up wins there, but lose the war if you lose your children to woke culture.

Marion Maréchal is not quite right: there can be political victories without cultural victories — this is what happened to Trump — but without cultural victories, the political victories will be shallow and ephemeral. Political victories can clear away space for cultural activism and renewal, as I think Eric Zemmour will do if he should run for president of France and win. (If Maréchal, who is still young, ever becomes French president, it will be in part because of what Zemmour will have done.) But again, as Viktor Orban has said in the past, politics cannot provide ultimate meaning. Those who believe it can end up banging on about political tomatoes, and making everybody miserable and afraid.

UPDATE:This is the kind of thing conservatives ought to take on using law and policy:

On October 18, 2021, January Littlejohn and her husband filed a lawsuit against the Leon County School Board (LCS) in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Florida with the help of the Child & Parental Rights Campaign, a non-partisan, non-profit public interest law firm.

The Littlejohns informed Deerlake Middle School in August 2020 of their 13-year-old daughter’s gender confusion, for which she was undergoing counselling. They gave permission for a nickname to be used but for no other kind of social transition.

Over the next month, unbeknown to the Littlejohns, the school proceeded to call their daughter by they/them pronouns, solicit her bathroom preferences, and ask if she preferred to sleep with the boys on an overnight trip.

When the Littlejohns asked for more information from school officials, they were told that “by law” only her daughter could authorize them finding out more or providing their input. The school could give no actual legal verification for their stance, but did provide the documents they developed in secret with their daughter, a “Transgender/Non-Conforming Student Support Plan,” with no notice or input from the Littlejohns. Among many directives was included a note that the Littlejohns were not to be notified at all.

After further inquiries for the legal basis of such actions, school officials gave the Littlejohns a copy of the LCS Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Nonconforming and Questioning Support Guide, which states the following: “1) parents are not to be informed when their children announce that they identify as transgender; 2) children who express gender confusion are permitted to choose which restroom they will use and that parents will not be notified of such decisions by their own children; and 3) children have a legally protected right to keep from their parents information regarding their gender identity and steps taken by the district to affirm that identity.”

The Littlejohns, and every parent, needs to know that the state is on their side, and not on the side of the woke institutions that want to seize their children and destroy the kids’ minds and bodies. This should not be hard, Republican Party.

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What Do Integralists Want?

Pope Pius IX, who reigned from 1846-1878, and who oversaw the seizing of Edgardo Mortara

If you don’t follow the world of right-of-center Christian intellectuals, you might not have heard of the integralists, proponents of a 19th century political theory that, broadly speaking, conceives of a polity based on Catholic authority.

You might have seen them mentioned if you read the New York Times story on Sunday about right-wing American intellectuals and Hungary. There was this passage, centering Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule, who has become the leader of American integralists:

New approaches were needed. And Vermeule, a recent convert to Catholicism who is considered one of the most limber legal scholars of his generation, was in a position to provide them. Recently, in a spate of articles published in national magazines and small conservative quarterlies, Vermeule has laid out a methodology for halting what he regards as the relentless advance of the liberal “creed.” In place of originalism — a theory espoused by conservative judges which holds that the meaning of the constitution is fixed — Vermeule proposed “common-good constitutionalism”: reading “into the majestic generalities and ambiguities” of the Constitution to create an “illiberal legalism” founded on “substantive moral principles that conduce to the common good.” Vermeule also offered a complementary theory of the administrative state, a topic on which he has written a number of books, that could be used to promote those moral principles. Those occupying positions of power in government administration could have a “great deal of discretion” in steering the ship of bureaucracy. It was a matter of finding a “strategic position” from which to “sear the liberal faith with hot irons.”

Even many of those interested in Vermeule’s ideas consider him extreme; some suspect him of wanting to impose a Catholic monarchy on America. (Vermeule declined to comment for this article.) But scholarship based on Vermeule’s ideas is starting to trickle out, some of it reshaping his concept as “common-good originalism.” Josh Hammer, the opinion editor of Newsweek, has argued that the emphasis on “general welfare” in the preamble to the Constitution, a synonym for the Greco-Roman concept of the “common good,” is a part of America’s heritage that is overshadowed by our focus on individual liberties. Originalism, with its insistence on “one true meaning,” has turned out to be “morally denuded,” Hammer told me. “Is that the end unto itself, or is it something a little greater?” he said. “It’s a viable political concept to care about national cohesion.”

Samuel Goldman, a conservative political theorist who directs the politics and values program at George Washington University, concedes that the historical record supports the view that “many, though not all, of the American founders really did imagine the U.S. as a sort of Christian nation state, in which public institutions would play a significant role in promoting virtue and be committed to specific religious doctrines. It didn’t work out that way, because even at the time, the population was too diverse, the institutions were too precariously balanced to permit it.” He went on to say that what the postliberals are doing seems strange because “it’s a trip back into an intellectual world that no longer exists.”

For Vermuele, promoting “substantive moral principles” might allow the state to intervene in areas like health care, guns and the environment, where “human flourishing” would take priority over trying to divine the 18th-century meanings of terms like “commerce” and “bearing arms.” Abortion would be illegal. But the outcomes of such policies would not always be the expected conservative ones. Vermeule recently argued in favor of a Covid-19 vaccine mandate, on the grounds that the health and safety of the community was necessary for the common good.

Governing for the common good would be the “final rejection” of the neoliberal dogma that “if you leave individuals to seek their own ends, you’ll necessarily build a good society,” Sohrab Ahmari, the former opinion editor of The New York Post, who says he is launching a new media company, told me. Ahmari, a recent convert to Catholicism, is one of Vermeule’s most visible allies and has become practically synonymous with a self-consciously pugilistic right. He urged conservatives in a 2019 essay to approach the culture war “with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square reordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good,” a phrase that has enjoyed a long half-life. “I don’t want to turn this into a Catholic country,” Ahmari told me when I met him earlier this year. But he counts himself among those who believe conservatism has failed because it insists that the only kind of tyranny “comes from the public square and therefore what you should do is check government power.”

The one thing that everyone under the broad category of “postliberalism” agrees on is that we have probably reached the end of the road with classical liberalism. As Deneen observed in his 2018 book, liberalism has beached itself because it succeeded so well in creating a world in which the individual is liberated from anything standing in the way of his individual choice. Turns out you can’t run a society like that. So now what?

What’s more, postliberals generally agree that the claim of liberal neutrality is a false one. Eventually, lines have to be drawn — and liberalism almost always draws them in the same way. The Catholic writer James Kalb wrote an excellent book on this, and talks about it in this 2009 interview. In the piece, he says, “Liberalism is progressive, though, so its demands keep growing. It eventually rejects all traditional ways as illiberal and becomes more and more radical.” Eventually it has to deny all traditions and traditional institutions as oppressive.

Kalb says liberalism isn’t all bad; it simply has to be subordinated to a shared conception of the Good.

Q: You argue that religion can be the unifying force that offers resistance to advanced liberalism, and that the Catholic Church is the spiritual organization most suited to that task. Why do you think so?

Kalb: To resist advanced liberalism you have to propose a definite social outlook based on goods beyond equal freedom and satisfaction.

A conception of transcendent goods won’t stand up without a definite conception of the transcendent, which requires religion. And a religious view won’t stand up in public life unless there’s a definite way to resolve disputes about what it is.

You need the Pope.

Catholics have the Pope, and they also have other advantages like an emphasis on reason and natural law. As a Catholic, I’d add that they have the advantage of truth.

Note well, I don’t know if Kalb is an integralist, but he’s right about the nature of the Good as the basis of a postliberal political order. The problem, though, is that we in the United States are a highly pluralistic nation, in which Catholics are a minority, and the number of Catholics willing to submit their lives to the teaching authority of the Church is very small. Another problem: unlike when Kalb wrote that in 2009, Catholics now have a pope who does things like appoint Jeffrey Sachs to the Pontifical Academy. 

The grand problem facing postliberals of the Right is that we can agree that we need to base politics on an authoritative and shared conception of the Good, but we have no realistic idea how to do that in postmodernity. The integralists — at least the ones who have made themselves heard on the fringes of the American Right — have an idea of how to do it … but it’s completely unworkable. Earlier on Wednesday, I recorded a TAC podcast with Sohrab Ahmari, a leading American integralist, in which we explored these ideas. I held off posting this blog entry until after doing the podcast, in hope that I would have some of my questions clarified by it. It was a fine conversation, but I left it as skeptical as I came in.

To be fair, Catholic integralism is an appealing and coherent way of thinking about politics. Here, from The Josias, the leading integralist website, is a short definition of integralism:

Catholic Integralism is a tradition of thought that, rejecting the liberal separation of politics from concern with the end of human life, holds that political rule must order man to his final goal. Since, however, man has both a temporal and an eternal end, integralism holds that there are two powers that rule him: a temporal power and a spiritual power. And since man’s temporal end is subordinated to his eternal end, the temporal power must be subordinated to the spiritual power.

Why is this appealing? Because they’re right that you can’t ultimately separate politics from concern with the ends of human life. Liberalism tries to do this, but it conceals within it a view of the proper end of human life. I’m interested in what integralism has to contribute to the debate, because from what I have seen, at their best, they are good at thinking these things through. As was clear in the conversation with Ahmari (which will be posted later this week), the major weak spot in my position as someone who identifies as postliberal is that I agree that liberalism as we know it has exhausted itself, but I don’t have a suggestion for what should replace it. The integralists certainly do — and their preferred order reminds me of why as flawed as liberalism is, I am not eager to give it up entirely. Let me explain.

Catholic integralism — the idea that the political order should be subordinated to the Catholic Church — is a complete non-starter in America. For that matter, it’s hard to think of a single country in the Christian world where it would stand a chance. Poland is not an integralist state, but it’s probably the place on earth where political Catholicism is the farthest advanced. I’m not a Catholic, but I generally like what the Law & Justice government there is doing. That said, almost all the Poles I’ve talked to, especially young Catholic ones, believe that political Catholicism is a doomed project over time, because so many of the younger postcommunist generation are falling away from the faith. As I’ve said here many times, Poles tell me that within a decade or so, they expect their own country to go the way of Ireland: into a near-total collapse of the Catholic faith. Understand what I’m telling you: these aren’t secularists who want to see this happen; these are serious young Catholics. Father Wlodzimierz Zatorski, a well-respected Benedictine (who died of Covid last year), told me in 2019 that the only long-term hope for the Church in Poland was through establishing strong Benedict Option communities, and re-evangelizing from there.

If political Catholicism is in trouble in Poland, where almost everybody is Catholic, at least nominally, how on earth is it ever going to triumph in the United States, where Catholics (nominal and serious) only number about 20 percent of the population? And of that number, how many of them would be willing to surrender American liberties for a reactionary 19th century ideal establishing the Catholic Church, and making the State subordinate to it? I bet you could fit all of them into Adrian Vermeule’s backyard in Cambridge, Mass.

In any case, the vague definition of integralism on the Josias doesn’t sound threatening. It’s when you start asking what that means in real life that it turns freaky. Normally, intellectual engagement is something to be enjoyed and engaged. There are plenty of non-Catholics who are interested to figure out a workable future under the condition of postliberalism, and would like to talk it all out. Not these cats. See, this is the thing that you must not do — ask what this would mean in real life. It makes our integralists mad. They blow up online, and sneer, act all indignant, and say that you must be one of those David French types for asking. It’s a silly act, but it tells us something important about them. If they thought that their program would be appealing to people, they would be eager to lay it out and try to win converts. They seem to think that they are going to insult and sh*tpost their way to power. They are very, very good at making enemies, especially of the people on the Right who are their natural allies.

But would you want to let any of these folks close to power? Not if you aren’t Catholic — and not if you are a Catholic who doesn’t believe the Papal States under Pius IX were the foothills of the New Jerusalem.

Think I’m kidding? Here’s Adrian Vermeule, their intellectual godfather, in a 2019 post calling for the US to open its southern border to Catholic migrants, as a first step towards dissolving America and creating a globalist Catholic empire. He concludes:

As the superb blog Semiduplex observes, Catholics need to rethink the nation-state. We have come a long way, but we still have far to go — towards the eventual formation of the Empire of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and ultimately the world government required by natural law.

Now, this is mostly a joke, I think. Vermeule, the Yankee archreactionary, is saying that under his ideal plan, migration to America would favor black and brown people, and the poor, who identify as Catholic. He is trolling the libs. But like many integralists, he really does believe that Catholic principles require a world government overseen by the Catholic Church. Good luck selling that to American Protestants. For that matter, good luck selling that to American Catholics. And if he wasn’t joking about opening the southern borders and dissolving the American nation-state, this is important information for us to know.

Vermeule believes, by the way, that Catholics have no choice but to be integralists. In this short presentation at Notre Dame in 2019, he quotes Pope Leo XIII saying that in America, the political order must not be separated from the religious order, the “perfect society” (Vermeule’s words) of the Catholic Church:

Here, from the book Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy, by Thomas Crean and Alan Fimister, is what the term “perfect society” means:

I’ll post more from this illuminating book later.

Vermeule calls papal teaching on integralism “irreformable.” Whether it is or isn’t is not a question for me to take up, but it does indicate how seriously he takes this. At that same conference, Gladden Pappin, an integralist academic and close collaborator of Vermeule’s praised the Chinese Communist regime for having a ministry that clearly lays out what the spiritual goals of a society should be — this, by contrast to the US, which has no such office:

He thinks the US should have such an office, and that it should be the Catholic Church. How do we get to that place in a minority-Catholic country, in which the Catholic Church is hemorrhaging members? They don’t tell us.

Well, actually, Vermeule does tell us. Until such time as they can take over, he told the Notre Dame audience, integralist Catholics ought to march through the governing institutions, with the long-term goal of overturning liberalism:

He is admirably clear about what he’s after. But what role would Jews, Protestants, Orthodox, and non-Catholics have in such a regime?

For these and other answers, turn to the Crean and Fimister book, which is a bit dry but admirably clear in its explanations of integralism. I read it here, for free. Here are some quotes; I’m sorry for the presentation, but I could not copy and paste, according to the format:

More:

Got that? Integralism teaches that only baptized Catholics may hold political power, and that they must exercise it in accordance with Catholic teaching. Not quite sure how that’s going to work in the United States of America, but let’s go on:

This is a critical point. It is precisely what was at issue in the infamous 19th century case of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child who had been secretly baptized by the family’s Catholic housekeeper. As the Mortara family lived in the Papal States, in which the pope was also the temporal ruler, Pius IX dispatched agents to seize the child so he could be raised with the Catholic education to which he was entitled. He ended up becoming a priest, and did not regret his fate — something that is easy to imagine, but in no way obviates or lessens the cruelty of his taking, any more than it lessened the injustice of those pioneer children kidnapped by Indian tribes and raised as Indians, who preferred as adults to remain with the Indians.

When you ask the integralists what they would do to guarantee that the Mortara case wouldn’t happen again if they come to power, they sometimes become indignant, as if raising the issue was rude or irrelevant. It’s not, though. It is rather unlikely that a situation like this would arise again, but it is also extremely important that the Church renounce its “right” to do this monstrous thing. The fact that integralists will not explicitly renounce the Catholic Church’s right to act in this way is a tell. Many conservatives rightly object to the State (e.g., the state of Washington) retaining the right to seize transgender minors from their families so the kids can have sex-change medical treatments. I’m not sure why we would be eager to embrace a system that gives the Catholic Church the right to seize baptized children from their non-Christian parents. I wish the integralists would tell us instead of getting angry at the perfectly reasonable question.

According to integralism, slavery is not ruled out. The slave simply must have his servitude comport with the law:

According to integralism, all Christian rulers must be subject to the Roman see:

It’s as if the East-West schism and the Reformation had never happened. This is one of those points where you can admire integralism for its audacious logic, but also know that it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of realization in the world as it actually is.

Here is integralism (insofar as Crean & Fimister represent it accurately) claiming that the ruled have no say over who rules them:

As broken-down and beaten-up as liberalism is, do we really want to trade it for a system that says government does not depend on the consent of the governed? I don’t, and I am confident that only a vanishingly small number of American Catholics would.

So the people have no right to choose their own leaders, but it might be prudent to let them act as if they did. Got it. As for religious liberty, here’s what the temporal ruler should and should not do:

Here’s more:

Right. More:

By forbidding those people who aren’t Catholics from voting, the temporal ruler will encourage people to become Catholic. That’s the idea. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the integralists that this would stir up rebellion by those who do not want to be ordered around by the Catholic Church, or be made second-class citizens in their own country.

So, what kind of role would people like me and other non-Catholics have to play (“Christendom,” in the integralist definition, does not include Orthodox and Protestant countries)? From the Catholic perspective, Orthodox are schismatics — and should have my citizenship suspended until I see reason and return to Catholicism (or, in the case of my youngest child, baptized Orthodox, leaves her baptismal faith and submits to the Pope):

More:

It’s not like they won’t give unbaptized people anything. The temporal ruler owes them nothing, but he might give them “certain civil rights,” though certainly they cannot be citizens, even if they were born in that country:

Jews, though, do get a free pass to worship, but they had better not seek converts:

This is from a summary of that particular chapter:

What about Muslims? Mormons? Buddhists? Are they entitled to freedom of worship? Doesn’t seem so. I don’t want to live in a polity where these people, despite their theological errors, are not granted freedom to worship.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the entire book. It makes it very clear why integralists like to keep their discussions of what they believe at a very general level, using inoffensive terms like “political Catholicism” (Sohrab’s preferred description), “common good conservatism,” and saying that they seek a political order based on helping man achieve the Good. Those things all sound good, but the devil is very much in the details.

Again: I fully concede that the weakness of my position is that I don’t have a clear, concise goal for what kind of political order should replace liberalism (and by “liberalism,” I mean classical liberalism, not simply the philosophy of the Democratic Party). Integralism does offer a clear, concise replacement; so does orthodox Marxism. Neither one, though, would or should be tolerated by people who cherish liberty — their own, or that of others. Any attempt to impose integralism, especially on a polity that is majority non-Catholic, would cause civil war. I had not realized until I read the Crean & Finster book after our podcast taping, that integralism is not interested in the consent of the governed. That being the case, it’s easier to understand why Vermeule believes, or seems to believe based on his Notre Dame remarks, that integralists ought to bide their time and infiltrate the institutions of government, until the moment when … what?

This is the primary weakness of the integralist position: it is utterly unrealistic in a post-Christian world. If the integralists get power, and think they can re-Christianize the lost lands of Christendom by executive action, they will find their sovereigns treading the same paths as Julian the Apostate, and King Canute. Second, I find it impossible to believe that these men are anything but appalled by many of the actions of Pope Francis. But they hold their tongues, perhaps out of respect for the office, but also because it’s very hard to convince people that the political order ought to be subject to the will of the Roman pontiff when the Roman pontiff is a font of confusion and instability.

Having read Crean & Finster, I understand better why so many of the leading integralists treat those who question them with sneering disdain. If most people knew what they really believed, they would run screaming the other way. It’s a lot easier to sh*tpost on Twitter, accuse people who don’t accept the integralist revelation of being David French acolytes, and so forth, all to the hurrahs and attaboys of the Very Online. But here in the real world, Christians and other conservatives who would like to construct a viable alternative to decaying liberalism had better figure out how to do so in a way that can accommodate pluralism. The more I read about integralism, and listen to integralists, and see the way integralists treat those who question them, the more I run smack into a big reason why liberalism arose in the first place: to provide a way for people who disagree on the nature of the Good to live together in relative peace.

The other day, Sohrab posted this tweet, which I include below with my comment:

At the risk of being called a big old homo by the integralists, let me put a word in for a Burkean approach. Here’s something John Michael Greer wrote about Burke:

The foundation of Burkean conservatism is the recognition that human beings aren’t half as smart as they like to think they are. One implication of this recognition is that when human beings insist that the tangled realities of politics and history can be reduced to some set of abstract principles simple enough for the human mind to understand, they’re wrong. Another is that when human beings try to set up a system of government based on abstract principles, rather than allowing it to take shape organically out of historical experience, the results will pretty reliably be disastrous.

What these imply, in turn, is that social change is not necessarily a good thing. It’s always possible that a given change, however well-intentioned, will result in consequences that are worse than the problems that the change is supposed to fix. In fact, if social change is pursued in a sufficiently clueless fashion, the consequences can cascade out of control, plunging a nation into failed-state conditions, handing it over to a tyrant, or having some other equally unwanted result. What’s more, the more firmly the eyes of would-be reformers are fixed on appealing abstractions, and the less attention they pay to the lessons of history, the more catastrophic the outcome will generally be.

That, in Burke’s view, was what went wrong in the French Revolution. His thinking differed sharply from continental European conservatives, in that he saw no reason to object to the right of the French people to change a system of government that was as incompetent as it was despotic. It was, the way they went about it—tearing down the existing system of government root and branch, and replacing it with a shiny new system based on fashionable abstractions—that was problematic. What made that problematic, in turn, was that it simply didn’t work. Instead of establishing an ideal republic of liberty, equality, and fraternity, the wholesale reforms pushed through by the National Assembly plunged France into chaos, handed the nation over to a pack of homicidal fanatics, and then dropped it into the waiting hands of an egomaniacal warlord named Napoleon Bonaparte.

More:

The existing laws and institutions of a society, Burke proposed, grow organically out of that society’s history and experience, and embody a great deal of practical wisdom. They also have one feature that the abstraction-laden fantasies of world-reformers don’t have, which is that they have been proven to work. Any proposed change in laws and institutions thus needs to start by showing, first, that there’s a need for change; second, that the proposed change will solve the problem it claims to solve; and third, that the benefits of the change will outweigh its costs. Far more often than not, when these questions are asked, the best way to redress any problem with the existing order of things turns out to be the option that causes as little disruption as possible, so that what works can keep on working.

That is to say, Burkean conservatism can be summed up simply as the application of the precautionary principle to the political sphere.

The precautionary principle? That’s the common-sense rule that before you do anything, you need to figure out whether it’s going to do more good than harm.

This is not as potent, clean, or logical as the ideology laid out by integralism. But it has the great advantage of not reducing people, in all their messiness, to abstractions. It is true that all societies have an idea of the Good that is reflected in lawmaking. You can’t get away from it. It is also true that liberalism is not neutral, that the hidden hand within liberalism tends to favor some things as goods and not others (for example, it inevitably emancipates the individual from all unchosen obligations). Again, though, what is the alternative? The answer is not clear, and working it out is going to require a great deal of thought and collaboration on the Right, among various factions. James Kalb is right about needing a thick sense of the Good rooted in religion, but given the woebegone state of Christianity (and not just Catholic Christianity) in the West, it is extremely hard to see how we arrive at that necessary place, absent mass conversion of everyone to orthodox, magisterial Catholicism as a precursor to political discussion. That seems rather unlikely, to put it mildly, so we are going to have to figure out how to do this in the ruins of what used to be Christendom. I believe that integralists really do have insights to contribute to this necessary conversation, but the thing they’re best at right now is making enemies on the Right, among people who naturally should be their allies.

Sohrab thinks complaining about this kind of thing is “tone policing,” but I strongly disagree. It matters how you address people who don’t agree with you, especially as a Christian public intellectual. Nobody is going to be mocked, sneered at, or shamed into adopting a reactionary Catholic triumphalist philosophy that turns non-Catholics into second-class citizens who have no say in who their leaders are. Sh*tposting is a good way to build a brand, but not a community that can convince other men and women of goodwill to join up, for the sake of restoring goodness and moral sanity in the real world.

Note to readers: I will be traveling for most of Thursday, and will not be able to approve comments. Please be patient.

UPDATE: A Catholic priest e-mails overnight:

How do we know that there is a ready-to-hand and authentic  replacement for a liberal order that has descended into a left-wing ill-liberal order? Wouldn’t the centuries long run up to the descent mean that any authentic vision would find itself to be a small and  marginalized minority? Wouldn’t it be historically and sociologically more likely that the strongest opposition would come from a right-wing ill-liberal order that was a type of mirror image of the left-wing?
As I used to say in the 80s to orthodox seminarians who longed for the replacement of the liberals with “law and order” conservatives: “I’m too Irish to be for ‘law and order’ — I want to know whose law and whose order.” I called it trading the 70s for the 40s, and declared I wasn’t keen to live under either regime.  Thing is, there’s no guarantee we’re  going to like what comes next and there may as a matter of fact be no way at this point to avoid whatever it is.
I think we should consider that the collapse of the liberal order in the West could prove long and ugly, with little influence coming from right believing folks for many, many years–if not generations.
Yes. I am sure I would prefer integralism to whatever we are likely to get if liberal democracy falls. We will likely get Caesarism of either the Left or the Right. I see no reason to believe that the Catholic Church would be part of this. But maybe I’m wrong. When Vladimir Putin took over from the ruins left by Boris Yeltsin and the catastrophe of the 1990s in Russia, he knew that he needed some kind of legitimating authority, so he began to rehabilitate the Orthodox Church in public life. It was a wise thing for him to do, strictly speaking from a political perspective. Should Continental European countries undergo a similar catastrophe, it would make sense for whatever political order emerges from the aftermath to do the same thing with Catholicism.
The United States, however, is an historically Protestant nation. My guess is that if a right-wing Caesar emerged, he would look something like Gen. Michael Flynn: a hard nationalist authoritarian with at least a veneer of Christianity. Unlike much of Europe, we simply don’t have the “bones,” so to speak, to support Catholic integralism in this country.
To that point:
That’s a great interview with Marion Maréchal; I will post on it later, separately. She is terrific, and I hope she becomes the French president one day. I don’t think she is an integralist, but if she were, she would have reason to believe that given France’s historical Catholicism, she would have something to work with in bringing about an integralist order. Still, such a thing would be quite extreme, even in France. How Catholic integralism comes to be in a historically Protestant country like the US is impossible to fathom. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but nothing more. We are far more likely to get a nationalist-conservative government like Hungary’s, a Christian democracy that provides something that a majority can potentially affirm. That’s what I hope for, anyway, not a scheme in which we surrender our liberties to representatives of a Christian religion that only a minority accept.
UPDATE.2: For readers who doubt that Disqus is a horrible system, and who think I must be exaggerating when I say that it takes comments I’ve already approved and removes them, look at what Disqus told me when I tried to answer one of my own readers just now:
UPDATE.3: A very conservative Catholic priest friend e-mails:
I’m dumbfounded. Why would you or any Christian realist desire integralism, even in preference to a repressive regime? It is a mockery of Christianity which never has and, please God, will never  exist in the real world.  Indeed, from a realist or Christian perspective I fail to see how it actually realizable in our fallen world.  Better to live for centuries of marginalization like Christians in the Roman Empire, in Ireland under British tyranny, and in Japan under their anti-Christian rulers, then to live thinking an earthly  regime with it’s inherent corruptions–and it attendant corrupting influences on ecclesial leaders and institutions–is an incarnation of Christianity and the Kingdom.
Beware, especially when faced with grim options for temporal governance, the implicit triumphalism and delusion of those “realists” or “Christians” who proclaim “we are aligned with truth and goodness, so we must dare to act creatively, to lead, to inspire, to rule.” Like Christ, any realist Christian has to recognize that service in charity and truth rather than ruling must be our constant goal. The road to Hell…
I would prefer integralism to Stalinism, but I get the point. An attempt to impose an integralist state in the modern world would only end up destroying the Church’s credibility. There are many reasons for Ireland’s falling away from the faith, but the Church’s abuse of power within a political order that, while not integralist, was highly deferential to the Catholic Church, is an important one.
And with that, I’m off to the airport…
UPDATE.4: Greetings from California. Busy day on Twitter with the integralists! Prof. Dan Mahoney, the Catholic academic who is America’s foremost Solzhenitsyn expert, writes:
Your critique of the Catholic integralists was excellent. Theirs is a utopian position, undesirable in principle and thoroughly unrealistic in practice. And it ignores the Church’s own robust defense of religious liberty. A world state could only be despotic as Roger Scruton and Pierre Manent have often reiterated (and who wants a world state dominated by the progressive-liberationist-humanitarians around Papa Bergoglio!).
Don’t expect a constructive dialogue. When one defends a conservative and Christian vision of democracy, they accuse the likes of you and me of being “right Liberals” who believe that liberty out to be neutral or indifferent regarding the human good and the truth of things. But you and I hardly believe that. Far from it! This rhetorical response is thoroughly dishonest. The alternatives available to us are hardly exhausted by integralism and a decayed relativistic liberalism. The refusal to acknowledge this palpable fact is truly mind boggling.
That’s true. One or more of them, can’t remember who, called me “Frenchist” — this, even though I have made it very clear for a long time that I don’t see eye to eye with David French on everything, and am probably more aligned with Ahmari on their great dispute. But I value some of David French’s insights, and I don’t consider hating him to be something to be proud of.

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Angry Parents Are Not Domestic Terrorists

This parent was arrested this past summer at a Loudoun County school board meeting about transgender policy. His daughter was raped by a genderfluid boy in a school bathroom

I have been hard on Republican members of Congress in this space for not being effective in pushing back on wokeness in power, but I gotta say, some GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been exemplary in giving Attorney General Merrick Garland hell over the Justice Department’s decision to sic the FBI on concerned parents, based on a phony letter ginned up by the National School Board Association. The letter suggested that some parents could be domestic terrorists, and was created by the NSBA in consultation with the Biden White House. After the truth came out, the NSBA disavowed the letter.

AG Garland was on the Hill today being grilled by Senators. “Grilled” is kind; more like flayed and roasted alive. Look:

And:

And:

You may find the very harsh tone taken by these Senators to be off-putting, but you need to understand what is at stake here. As Andrew McCarthy points out, the Justice Department and the Democrats were using this phony letter secretly drafted in consultation with the White House to justify AG Garland’s memo ordering the FBI to look into whether or not there was a role for the federal government in fighting violent threats against school boards. Here is a crucial point, by McCarthy:

First, they calculate that most Americans are unaware that local violence and threats of violence are not federal crimes and will approve of any law-enforcement monitoring meant to prevent violence, even in cases when such monitoring would suppress constitutionally protected dissent. Democrats insist that violence is rampant at school-board meetings — even though the examples they offer are overwhelmingly threats of violence, rather than actual violence. Their assumption is that under these claimed circumstances, people will figure it is only natural for the DOJ to threaten FBI monitoring of interactions between parents and school administrators.

There is no federal role here, because even if widespread threats of violence are real (and this is strongly disputed), this is a state and local matter. This entire move was to chill First Amendment dissent by making parents afraid that speaking out against what is being done to their children by school authorities could get them harassed by the FBI. More from NRO on today’s testimony:

During the hearing, Republican Senator Ben Sasse questioned why Garland would not disavow his memo when so many state school board associations have rejected it as well as cut ties with the national group. He accused Garland of launching a campaign against parents to politicize the DOJ.

“Why did the Ohio school board association disassociate from the National School Board Association?,” Sasse asked.

“I don’t know,” Garland replied. “Because this was political hackery,” Sasse shot back. The senator reiterated that while legitimate threats should not be condoned or dismissed, “local law enforcement is more than able to handle one idiot or twelve idiots at local school board meetings.”

“But you have made it a federal issue and I have no idea why,” Sasse added. He then demanded that Garland report back to the House Judiciary Committee to share the findings of the task force’s assessment to elucidate for Congress “how big of a threat parents really pose.”

This is a huge issue. Thank God parents like Asra Nomani are leading the charge in Virginia against these school boards, which are trying to advance progressive causes while keeping parents in the dark. A month ago, Fairfax County schools pulled two gay-themed books from school shelves after parental complaints. 

What was in one of those books? Here are panels from “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns. It’s a book about a female who suffered from gender dysphoria, and who tells the story of her life, including her many sexual explorations. I read it on Kindle Unlimited just now, and have slightly edited them for this site:

If this offends you, well, sorry about that, but you need to know what is in many high school libraries. If you don’t see it for yourself, you will be subject to believing the lie that this is nothing but right-wing nonsense. Many school officials would prefer that you not know. In Virginia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is engaged in the Big Lie, saying that all of this, and the Critical Race Theory in schools controversy, are nothing but Trumpist “dog whistles.”

Meanwhile, this week a court found a Virginia high schooler guilty of raping a girl in the girl’s bathroom at the victim’s school. The self-described “genderfluid” rapist was wearing a skirt, and permitted to use the girl’s bathroom. The school board in the interim passed a transgender-friendly school policy, and denied knowing about the rape — which was a lie. The rapist was sent to a different high school, where he has now been accused of raping a second girl.

The other day, campaigning for McAuliffe, former President Barack Obama said:

“We don’t have time to be wasting on these phony, trumped up culture wars. This fake outrage that the right-wing media peddles to juice their ratings.”

It wasn’t a phony culture war. It was a rape. If that rapist had been wearing a MAGA hat instead of a skirt, the media and the Left would be reacting very differently.

McAuliffe and the Democratic Party are gaslighting parents. McAuliffe says that the Critical Race Theory controversy is manufactured, but he’s lying. McAuliffe said in a recent gubernatorial debate that parents should have no role in determining what their children are exposed to in school — that is, the schools that they pay for. McAuliffe said in 2019 that diversity and inclusion are as important as math and English in schools— this, despite the fact that 62 percent of Virginia eighth graders can’t meet proficiency standards in math.

The red-hot controversy over Virginia schools, and the preference of Democratic politicians that parents shut up and sit down and trust the experts, is symbolic of a much bigger fight. The Left believes it knows better, and that its task is to suppress parents for the sake of liberating their children from their parents’ bigotry. In Virginia, Democrats believe that school boards know better than parents. According to a recent Suffolk poll:

Could we finally be at the start of the backlash? Could the Left finally have gone too far? The fact that the Loudoun County educrats knew that a genderfluid male raped a girl in a high school girls bathroom and covered it up while they were eager to pass a pro-trans school policy, and other educrats worked with the Biden White House to manufacture an excuse to get the Attorney General to threaten to sic the FBI on parents who were unhappy with what schools were doing to their kids — if the Republicans can’t do something with this, well, what are Republicans for? I think Sens. Sasse, Cotton, and Cruz today showed us what Republicans are for, and I’m grateful for that.

UPDATE: Wonder if Broward County, FL, parents consented to have their little kids go on a field trip to a gay bar named Rosie’s? Probably so. Looks like it’s an annual event.

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Happy Halloween, Bigots

Candy bar witch punishes opponents of genderfluidity (Source)

It’s a little thing, but the little things sometimes tell us so much. Look at this Twix candy ad. Watch it till the end:

So: a genderfluid little boy bonds with his witch nanny when she uses her occult powers to punish bullies who tell him that boys don’t wear dresses. Thanks, Woke Capitalism.

What is the message of this two-minute clip? That genderfluidity is right and good, and opposing it is what wicked bullies do. That a child struggling with gender dysphoria can turn to the occult for assistance, and to smite his enemies. God made them male and female, says the Bible, but the power of the occult can be accessed to overturn that bigotry.

This radical message, embedded in a humorous ad for Halloween candy.

This is an aspect of the weird totalitarianism we are living through today. We have seen harder manifestations in cases where physicians, academics, and others lose their jobs for questioning transgender ideology. Things like the Twix ad cannot be understood as apart from the overall message discipline of the Left: that there is only one permissible opinion to hold, and those who do not hold it are enemies to be crushed.

This is not a one-off, and it is not neutral. The inability of normal people to understand what is happening here is one reason why this garbage is so effective at changing the way people think. From Live Not By Lies:

One of contemporary progressivism’s commonly used phrases—the personal is political—captures the totalitarian spirit, which seeks to infuse all aspects of life with political consciousness. Indeed, the Left pushes its ideology ever deeper into the personal realm, leaving fewer and fewer areas of daily life uncontested. This, warned Arendt, is a sign that a society is ripening for totalitarianism, because that is what totalitarianism essentially is: the politicization of everything.

Infusing every aspect of life with ideology was a standard aspect of Soviet totalitarianism. Early in the Stalin era, N. V. Krylenko, a Soviet commissar (political officer), steamrolled over chess players who wanted to keep politics out of the game.

“We must finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess,” he said. “We must condemn once and for all the formula ‘chess for the sake of chess,’ like the formula ‘art for art’s sake.’ We must organize shock-brigades of chess-players, and begin immediate realization of a Five-Year Plan for chess.”

Let there be no “candy for the sake of candy.” Every aspect of life must be infused with revolutionary consciousness. The propaganda war must be waged without hesitation. That’s the idea. To play your role, you need to say, “Oh, come on, what’s the big deal? It’s just an ad for candy!” And to play my role, I have to publish things like this blog post. I know that they are counting on reactionaries like me to do this, but what is the alternative? It’s a heads they win, tails we lose deal.

Soon we won’t even recognize our country anymore. Those who grew up in this propaganda world the Left has created will think that we who remember the Before Times are weird, and that little boys who wear dresses and turn to the occult to defend their sexual undifferentiation are the good guys.

Happy Halloween, bigots.

UPDATE: It’s already started in the comments section: What, are you on the side of bullies now?!

This is the same simpleminded reaction that allowed the LGBT education activist group GLSEN to march through the schools with pro-LGBT propaganda, starting twenty years ago. In the year 2000, I wrote a piece about this for the Weekly Standard. Excerpt:

GLSEN/Boston boasts the most advanced programs of its kind in the nation. As goes Massachusetts, in time, so may go the rest of America. Camenker and Whiteman are on the front lines of a battle likely to spread to school districts from coast to coast, as the powerful GLSEN organization, with sponsorship money from American Airlines, Dockers Khakis, and Kodak, presses its radical agenda under the innocent-sounding guise of “safety,” “human rights,” and “suicide prevention.”

“That money goes down a rathole to fund gay clubs in schools, and gay rallies and conferences,” fumes Camenker. “None of the people who get the money are legitimate suicide prevention groups. They’re all these gay groups.”

GLSEN will be holding its annual leadership training conference next month in San Francisco, to be preceded by a two-day workshop teaching students and educators how to push the gay agenda in local schools — even at the kindergarten level — as a human rights issue. Books available from the GLSEN website include Queering Elementary Education and Preventing Prejudice, a collection of elementary-school lesson plans built around themes such as “What Is a Boy/Girl?” and “Freedom to Marry.”

Schools’ surreptitiously introducing this material to students, says Whiteman, “puts kids at risk and puts parents completely out of the loop with the sexual identities of their children. The schools take this elitist attitude that they know best.”

The point of this activist drive, warns Camenker, is to desensitize children to gay sex at a very young age and counteract moral instruction to the contrary given by their parents and religious leaders. If you protest, he warns, be prepared to be stonewalled and sneered at by school officials, smeared in the press, and denounced as a hatemonger and a bigot by gay activists.

Yet what choice is left to parents but to fight? “We’re facing an incredible evil here. It chills you to the bone,” says Camenker, an Orthodox Jew brought closer to his faith by this struggle. “The only way we’re not going to get run over is if people wake up to what’s happening to our children.”

“These people are bullies,” he continues. “People are afraid of them, afraid of being called homophobes. I don’t enjoy this, but this is America, and I’m not going to run away.”

What the LGBT activists did — brilliantly, I should add — is to make advancing LGBT propaganda as key to fighting bullying. Everybody agrees that bullying is bad. But you know what? You can fight bullying by fighting bullying! Forbid it, and punish bullies. Everybody agrees with that. The activists, though, figured out that if you can convince people that fighting bullying and making schools “safe” requires normalizing LGBT, then you’ve won.

This is the same strategy that the Twix commercial uses. It construes opposing genderfluidity — in this case, saying that boys aren’t supposed to wear dresses — as bullying. In the commercial, the boys saying this really are bullies. The implication is that this is the position held by bullies. The fact that some people watching this ad swallow this without thinking about it shows how the propaganda works.

UPDATE.2: Commenter Redbrick:

Honestly besides the obvious liberal idea of this commercial (oppressed gets back at oppressor) and satanic idea (dark powers helping you/the dark powers are the good guys). There is another angle here and one that I think is not talked about enough…control.

The entire mass media main streaming of emasculation. Taking a whole generation of boys and turning them into something else. Dress like a girl! Come on do it…be feminized!

When you do this on a large enough scale you can create spiritual/cultural eunuchs who will never rise up against you.

If you found a report that proved the CIA and the entire USA/Atlanticist ruling cabal had green lit this idea across all the media they control I would not be surprised in the least.

Commenter Hmmm:

The “turning to the occult” aspect doesn’t strike me as a big deal in this commercial. What is notable is the “crush your enemies” aspect — making the kid disappear, with the last joke being he’ll “probably” come back (with a shrug). How often do candy or toy commercials (or any ads at all, for that matter) feature violence against children (or their banishment to … hell or the netherworld or nothingness or whatever)? Clearly, deplorables who think and act like him are outside the “moral circle.” And if that is not your presupposition when you first watch the commercial — if you are a bit shocked to see this, rather than nodding and smirking with satisfaction — the message is: This is the way all good and normal people think; why else would there be a Twix commercial based on that presupposition? So you should be sure you’re with the normal and good people, inside the circle. And stop trying to have any sympathy or understanding for the deplorables: they’re irredeemable and should be mocked and banished. *That*, really, is the anti-Christian message here, not the black magic. Judge not… casting the first stone… none of those teachings applies to certain people.

UPDATE.3: A reader points out that the Twix ad would be completely unacceptable if the witch had smited a member of a Sacred Victim group. Also, how creepy would this video be if a Muslim kid had prayed to Allah to smite a bully making fun of him, or a Christian kid had done same?

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