‘No Enemies To The Right’
About the Thomas Achord Affair, I notice on Twitter, a few people are condemning me for speaking out as I have done in this matter. Some say I have punched too hard at someone who has a vastly smaller profile than I do. Maybe, but what they don't know, and I do, is that the victims of Achord are people with names and faces: the faculty, parents, and students of a little Christian school that I love. My kids all studied at this school for years. My wife and friends of mine taught at this school, and worked so hard, and so many long hours, over the years, for very little money, to build it up, all out of a love for Classical Christian Education, and of the kids they taught. If you want to make money in this world, the last thing you should do is go into CCE. They did it out of a sense of vocation. And now that school's existence is at risk because of what Achord did. This is not minor, not to me, nor to anybody who invested themselves in the school's flourishing. Achord's career as an educator is over, and his name is ruined -- that's one tragedy, because the man had real gifts as a teacher. But the greater tragedy is that many people who trusted him -- teachers, administrators, parents, and students -- have been betrayed and even smeared by what he did. That's not nothing.
I know the dynamic here, because I wrote for years about the Catholic abuse scandal, and heard the same kind of protests from Catholics who tried to minimize the evil of it all, and the damage it caused to real people. They wanted to keep it all quiet, or at least minimized, because they thought it compromised the mission of the Church -- as if the people calling out the evil, and being angry over it, were the real problem. No, I'm not going to put up with that. I think of the good Catholic priests I've known over the years who had nothing to do with the abuse or the cover-up, but who had to bear the shame of being associated with those evildoers, and having others think that because of their Roman collar, that they somehow are also implicated. It's a horrible injustice. I know now that there will be people who are predisposed to hate CCE who will tell themselves that surely the school knew, or surely this tells us what CCE is really all about: racism and bigotry. If you think that's not coming, then you don't know human nature. I've seen it all before, and I know it's going to come again to all the people in Sequitur, and more broadly to the CCE movement, within which Achord was making a name for himself through his talks and participation in training beyond Sequitur. These are people who do not deserve this unfair guilt-by-association, but they're going to have to endure it. Yeah, I'm angry as hell about it, and I'm not going to apologize for it, certainly not while Achord seems not to be particularly repentant, beyond an anodyne statement saying he regrets the "turmoil" he has brought onto the school and onto the Baptist church that hosted the school.
But there's a broader and deeper issue at stake in this. Some of the pushback against me and others who exposed Achord -- and that hard work was not done by me, but by others -- has been along the lines of (to quote one person on Twitter): "Who cares? No enemies to the Right!" The meaning is that we shouldn't have made a big deal about this, because we on the political, cultural, and religious Right should never attack one of our own, not while there's a culture war raging, and our side is so badly outnumbered. After all, this is how most of the Left behaves. Why should we tear our own down?
The answer is in these words of Our Lord: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)
That is, the real fear we Christians should have is not of worldly powers, but of losing our souls. You can gain all the status and power the world has to offer, but if you have lost your soul, what have you gained? How do you lose your soul? One sure way is through hatred. Though hatred of others because of the color of their skin, or their ethnic heritage, or their sex. By teaching others to hate as you hate. Could anything be clearer from Scripture?
Every one of us, I believe, will face judgment one day. None of us will appear before the Judgment Seat unstained by sin. What do you think the Lord will say when He asks you why you indulged racial hatred, anti-Semitic hatred, and hatred of women, and your response is, "No enemies to the Right"? How can that answer possibly be adequate? It might be reasonable in a worldly sense, if your ultimate goal is to achieve power, or to preserve power. But in the eyes of eternity, it's nothing. Hard as it is for many to believe, it is not worth losing your eternal soul for the sake of owning the libs.
I am not someone who is ignorant of how the Left behaves. I have made lots of enemies on the Left by the stances I've taken and defended publicly. It's not fun, but I've accepted their hatred as the cost of standing up for what I believe is good and true. But the evil of the Left does not give us on the Right a pass to be like them. Am I worried about what will happen to my children in the world the Left has created, and is creating? Absolutely -- it's one reason why I wrote The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies. But I am far, far more concerned that they would lose their souls, and their eternal life -- and that's something that they are at risk of if they accept hatred.
It's something I have to wrestle with all the time -- that is, what the difference is between righteous anger and hatred. Many on the Left call anybody who opposes them haters, simply by virtue of their opposition. "Love wins" is an evil slogan, because it implies that those who dissent are haters. Many times I have gone to confession and told the Lord, in the presence of my confessor, that I crossed the line in defending what's right, and indulged myself in hatred. Every one of us, if we are conscientious, has to examine our consciences all the time, and repent when necessary. People like me, who are on the front lines of the culture war, are at particular risk here.
But this is a battle we have to fight within ourselves at the same time we fight the battle in the world. "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven," said Jesus (Matthew 6:43-45). One thing I learned from interviewing Christians who remained behind the Iron Curtain and resisted Communism is that it was a constant challenge to obey Christ in this while being beaten, imprisoned, and persecuted by the Communists. In communist Vietnam, the late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan was terribly persecuted by the Reds, who finally had to start posting two guards outside his cell, because he would engage his lone guards in dialogue, and lead them all to faith in Christ. That is our model. It's a model I fail every day, but it remains the model. Dr. Silvester Krcmery, beaten and imprisoned in Slovakia for a decade by the Communists, made it a habit to pray for his torturers and captors, out of love for Jesus. Again: that is our model.
"No enemies to the Right" is a corrupt principle that will lead many of us on the Right to hell, and will lead our country into a shooting war.
Now, having said that, I want to emphasize as strongly as I possibly can that the Left bears immense responsibility for the rise of these dark demons on the Right. It's not a matter of "the woke devil made me do it." It's about behaving in a way that drives others to radicalism.
If you are a white man in Baton Rouge like Thomas Achord, you live in a city that is majority black, and that is one of the most violent cities in the United States. The violence is almost entirely confined to the black community. You see a community that is broadly dysfunctional, with incredible rates of violence, with drug abuse, and most importantly of all, with family systems that have disintegrated. You also live in a society and culture where one cannot talk about these things openly, because to do so is to invite condemnation of yourself as a racist. This is broadly true in America. Our social taboos prevent us from dealing with the ugly realities in front of us, not only having to do with race, but also with sexuality, and now with gender.
You live in a world in which all the major institutions of your society have decided that if you are white, and especially if you are a white male, and most especially if you are a white male traditionalist Christian, then you are a Bad Person -- not by virtue of what you have done or haven't done, but by virtue of the condition into which you were born. You live in a world in which you will not only be demonized, but you stand to be denied educational and professional advancement, not because of what you have or have not done, but because of who you are -- and those who treat you like this reward themselves by claiming to be virtuous.
Look at this:
The only way you can be considered for a job in Chicago's charter schools if if you formally commit yourself to antiwhite racism. You tell me: how does that prevent young white people from looking more sympathetically at white nationalism?
You live in a world in which you might have been taught, if you are of a certain age, that justice requires judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. You came to believe that, and to recognize that it was cruel and unjust to treat black people, and other racial minorities, and women, as if they were nothing more than bearers of race and sex. And now you see that the rules have been changed by the powerful, and that it is not only acceptable, but laudable to judge and treat people solely on the basis of their race or sex, if they are white and male -- and that to speak out against that, to protest against this injustice, only shows how evil you really are, and deserving of punishment by the powerful in your society.
You live in a world in which the ruling class and its institutions are now coming after your children in an attempt to alienate them from their bodies, via gender ideology -- and to speak out against it in any way is to invite scorn and even punishment.
You live in a society whose institutions are determined to denigrate and destroy your entire civilizational heritage -- not just acknowledge the evil parts and repent of them, but to brand it all as evil, and to disinherit your children from their past and their culture. And again, this colonialist exploitation is carried out in the name of Good. To resist it is, in the eyes of this upside-down world, evil.
You are told that black and black-sympathetic rioters who burned and looted were to be understood and forgiven as having their hearts in the right place, and to be disgusted by the violence and mayhem was but one more sign of how wicked you are, white man.
You are told that the border of your country must remain wide-open so that people from other countries can cross it at will, and live in your country. You are told by elites who do not have to live with the consequences of this -- their money shields them from having to send their kids to public schools that have been overwhelmed by migrant children, or to use public hospitals inundated with illegal aliens -- that to notice this, and to object to it, marks you out as a racist. The cost of virtue, in the eyes of these leftists, is to surrender your country.
I could go on, but you get the point. If you are growing up in this world, how do you react to it? How do you react to it when the churches are either silent about it, or join in with the chorus of condemnation of you? I was talking on Sunday, at breakfast after church here in Budapest, with an American expatriate who is a young white male Millennial. He grew up in suburban America. I was telling him about the Achord thing, and he agreed that it is wicked, and that we need to stand up against it. But he said that people of my generation (I am 55) don't really understand what it's like to grow up in a culture that condemns you from the start. "So many guys in my generation," he told me, "just give up and retreat into video games and porn. Some of them go into white nationalism. It's not right, but they don't see any way out."
This is what our media and all the other leading institutions of our society refuse to see. They are driving whites, especially white males, into this darkness. Hear me clearly: the fault of people who accept racism and all the rest lies primarily with them. But can you not see why this stuff would appeal to them? Can you not understand why a young black man in 1960s America would be drawn to the Black Panthers? I can. God knows it doesn't make it right, but I can see the rationale there. When you systematically silence entire groups of people, and tell them that if they speak up for themselves, or challenge the dominant narrative, that they are evil and must be silenced and destroyed, you should not be surprised if they will gravitate to radicals who tell them there is nothing wrong with you, that you are being mistreated, and here is an ideology that will give you comfort, meaning, and a program of resistance.
In reading about how Arab Muslim men become radicalized, you encounter similar stories. It often comes from an experience of deep injustice, or if we are talking about young Muslims in the United States, from a feeling of dislocation and a hunger for identity. This is why many Boomers became radicalized to the Left in the 1960s. It's where Woke comes from, I think: a desperate desire for meaning, purpose, and solidarity. It's why some white men are gravitating to the radical, racialized Right. As I write in Live Not By Lies, Hannah Arendt warned that the preconditions for totalitarianism, of either Right or Left, include mass atomization and loneliness, a loss of faith in institutions, and a love of transgression for the sake of transgression. We have created such a world in the United States today! The American system has become a machine for the radicalization of many people to the far right. And nobody on the Left seems to care that their own illiberalism is contributing to this evil state of affairs. Judging by his Tulius thread, Achord wasn't wrong about everything. The danger is that the things he was right about leads him to vicious conclusions -- and can lead others to the same. For example, it was true that the Left, especially in the media, celebrated the George Floyd riots and unfairly vilified Kyle Rittenhouse -- two common themes of the Tulius thread. But that in no way justifies racism! It is possible -- indeed it is necessary -- to call out wrongdoing when you see it, while at the same time resisting the siren song of hatred.
Once again: the evil of the Left does not justify or excuse the evil of the Right. But it does help explain where it comes from. If you want to teach these young whites not to hate others on the basis of race, then stop hating white people on the basis of race, and maligning them, and disadvantaging them, solely because they are white, or white and male. If you won't stop it, then you can expect a hell of a lot more Thomas Achords to arise, and Christian conservatives like Alastair Roberts and me won't be able to do much at all to stop it. They'll see us as they do today: like useful idiots for those who want to destroy them.
America is fast de-Christianizing. The churches, by and large, put up no meaningful resistance to the evils of the political and cultural Left, and the political and cultural Right. Many pastors just don't want to see what is happening right in front of them, because resisting it is hard, and they want to be liked. Or they focus only on one side -- the evil of the Left, or the evil of the Right -- because again, it's easier to deal with. Nevertheless, the Christian faith and the liberal principle of judging people as individuals, by their character, which came out of Christianity, is the most powerful weapon we have against these destructive hatreds. We are losing it. I had lunch recently with a Hungarian academic, a Christian who told me his is not really a Christian country. Most young people, he said, are on the Right, but despite the Prime Minister's open and muscular Christianity, they don't really want much to do with it. They want to have sex, watch porn, smoke dope, and still vote Right, for reasons that have nothing to do with Christianity. And the churches, he said, really don't have a lot to say in all this. He's a Catholic, but told me the only religious groups with any vibrancy these days are a few Evangelicals, and Orthodox Jews. Listening to him talk, I was thinking that this is post-Christian America too. And I thought of Ross Douthat's famous warning to the Left: If you don't like the Religious Right, wait till you see the Post-Religious Right.
We see it in the Twitter thread of Thomas Achord's online alter ego -- this, despite the fact that he professes Christ. As in Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow American South, there will be many, many people who find a way to reconcile their religious faith with race hatred. Certainly many progressive churches are doing the same, from the Left, against whites. Those who stand up against them will be vilified. But it's still important to do so, because in the end, we are accountable to God and God alone.
Traditional Christians who rebuke race hatred can't exorcise these devils from our midst alone. The truth is, the greatest ally white nationalists, race haters, and anti-Semites on the Right, including the Christian far right, have is the contemporary illiberal Left in power. What are you on the Left going to do about it? You are entirely correct to expect us to do our jobs in standing up to evil on our own side. But what about you? You are guilty of creating a radicalizing environment. You especially in the media, who repeatedly turn a blind eye to what your leftist allies say and do in this country to those who disagree with them, if you want to save our country from going to the brink of civil war, stand back and stand down.
I'll end with this paraphrase of Solzhenitsyn, one of the twentieth century's moral giants, and a man who endured among the worst political violence of his age: The line between good and evil doesn't pass between left and right, but down the middle of every human heart.
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UPDATE: One more thing. Heda Margolius Kovály was a Czech Jew who escaped a Nazi concentration camp at the end of the war, and returned to Prague, desolate. In her memoir, she wrote about how she joined the Communist Party because it was the furthest thing from Nazism she could find, and because it offered hope. So did the man she married, a fellow Czech Jew, who joined the Communist government later. He later endured a show trial, and was executed on trumped-up charges. Thus began her great disillusionment with Communism.
I'm thinking this morning of her testimony about why she became a Communist. It wasn't really out of conviction, not at first. It was because the Communists were, in her mind, the greatest enemies of those who had murdered her family and almost everyone she knew. She admitted in her book that she was fooled, and heaven knows she paid a terrible price for it. Now, imagine yourself in her place, at the end of the war. Would you have had the presence of mind and the strength of character to resist Communism? I don't know that I could have done it.
Kovaly was simply trying to explain how some people become radicalized. It's true in all times, and in all places. Suffering, fear, humiliation, persecution, hatred -- all of these things can open up one's mind to lies that promise a better world, a more just world.