The following statement is now accepted. The days when the ministers of the crown were concerned with the opinion of the Bishops of the established church or the moderators of the reformed church is over, instead all things are now seen as political. We may be post-Christian, but what does this mean?
We have stopped being in any sense a truly Christian culture, except insofar as inertia prevents us still from such blasphemies as cannibalism and human sacrifice in the town square. We are now already a post-Christian culture, and daily more and more therefore an anti-Christian culture. Thus there is no longer any possibility of real détente between Christians and secular liberals. Rather, we must prepare for a time of persecution. Our preachers may expect to be met, not with respect, but with hatred.
The first essay worth looking at is Catholic, explicitly so, but it has a peculiarly Anabaptist feel to it. The state has left us, so the engagement with society to reform it — which has been pretty much the American religious project of the last century — has to end. It is not a time when we can engage. There is no more Christendom: there is but Babylon, and from that we must flee. For the state has rejected the cornerstone of faith, and build untruth.
I would argue that such an anti-Christian state requires not the church acceding to its wishes, which happened too much in the last century, but the church confessing its faith.
The civic project has taken as gospel Murray’s conviction that the founders “built better than they knew.” But this presupposes the very thing in question: that the state and its institutions are merely juridical and that they neither enforce nor are informed by the ontological and anthropological judgments inherent in their creation. That exactly the opposite has more or less come to pass suggests rather that the founders built worse than they intended, that the founding was in some sense ill-fated. This does not make liberty any less of an ideal or its obvious blessings any less real. It simply suggests a tragic flaw in the American understanding and articulation of it. Nor need this diminish our affection for our country, though it is an endlessly fascinating question, what American patriotism really means today. One can love his country despite its philosophy, provided there is more to the country than its philosophy. Yet it is surely a sign of the impoverishment of common culture and the common good—and an index of the degree to which liberal order has succeeded in establishing itself as both—that we are virtually required to equate love of country with devotion to the animating philosophy of the regime rather than to, say, the tales of our youth, the lay of the land and the bend in the road, and “peace and quiet and good tilled earth.”
This creates a great temptation for protagonists on all sides of the civic project—right, left, and in between—to conflate their Christian obligation to pursue the common good with the task of upholding liberal order, effectively eliminating any daylight between the civic and Christian projects. For example, virtually absent from our lament over the threats to religious freedom in the juridical sense is any mention of that deeper freedom opened up by the transcendent horizon of Christ’s resurrection, though this was a frequent theme of Pope Benedict’s papacy. If we cannot see beyond the juridical meaning of religious freedom to the freedom that the truth itself gives, how then can we expect to exercise this more fundamental freedom when our juridical freedom is denied?
Now, if this is the case, the neoconservative ideas of Spengler fall over. He argues that most societies are not ideological, but tribal. They see their future in the preservation of their society, their culture, knowing full well that all peoples fade and all cultures die. He contrasts this experience — that of the Roman, the Celt, the German, the British and the Russian, with their tribal, national churches and cultic saints (For England and St George, indeed) with both Israel, the true tribe of promise, and America, deliberately founded by the Puritans as a society based on ideas of freedom and liberty under God. But if the state supplants God we do not have a people who look beyond this world with hope: we have the Fascist (The Leninist Soviet system included). Which engenders nor merely poverty, but despair.
I’d like to suggest that, inter alia, it comes down to Ockham’s Triumph: the de facto “establishment” in American public life of the notion that freedom is willfulness, and that willfulness can attach itself to any object, “so long as no one gets hurt” (which “no one” obviously does not include the aborted unborn and the euthanized, simply underscoring the confusions of the age). Ockham’s Triumph has intersected with another aspect of the “worse”: The metaphysical vacuum ably limned by Hanby has been filled by a new Gnosticism (chiefly but not exclusively embodied in the sexual revolution) that teaches that everything in the human condition is plastic and malleable and therefore subject to change by acts of will (like transgendering surgery). The intersection of these two Very Bad Ideas—Freedom-as-Willfulness and the New Gnosticism—produces what Joseph Ratzinger aptly described on April 18, 2005, as the “dictatorship of relativism.” And that dictatorship is the end of democracy, and indeed of any decent civic order.
What we are seeing, instead is the collapse of civil order within the more aggressive (and protected) groups, who consider that either the law is not for them (at the elite end) or the law is an enemy and to be ignored (at the level of the disengaged). The working and middle classes, however, are overly regulated, in part because they have to care for their reputation. Neither the upper class nor the unengaged care. In Alte’s neofeudal version of this, The Kings and Earls are allied with the slaves, against the middle.
But this is not sustainable, because the middle is where the production is: the other classes are drones and parasites. Which is a fairly good description of the coalition that generally gets the left into power, where they try to manage us all. for our own good. As Vanessa once said:
We always end up with precisely the government we deserve, and if we’ve become incompetent to rule ourselves, then it is logical that we will be ruled by other people. Most families are now headless, so the state is doing their duty by stepping up and taking that place.
You may like to think of yourself as a freeman, and not a serf or even an aspiring lesser-noble, but that is actually a role allowed under neofeudalism. You are, you see, an outlaw. You are outside of the bounds of the system. You’ve gone rogue. You have a bounty on your head and it’s really only a matter of time before they trump up charges and drag you in to be hanged.
Unless, that is, you manage to create a society outside of the bounds of their creation. A town, perhaps, or a large independent farm. A vibrant community offering some vital service that they are loathe to disturb, and that they choose to negotiate and trade with, rather than simply overrun and subject. It happened then, it can happen now.
We have rejected Christendom, with the organic links and duties that bound that society together. We have forgotten to pray as Chesterton did.
Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.
So be not surprised that the sword is now blunt, the treasury sacked, the culture despoiled, the elite uncaring while the underclass carefully only oppresses the productive, and the future appears bleak. God is not mocked, and we have fallen from a great height. Our society is now post Christian, and thinks it can borrow from a source of capital it denies.
But there is a God, and he will not be mocked.