Substituting factions for faith

A person’s life is meant to have meaning, and for that meaning to derive from a relationship to their Creator.  It’s no surprise, then, that those who reject God are driven to seek meaning anywhere they believe they can find it.  Some turn to self-destructive vices in an ever-more-vain pursuit of moments of perceived happiness.  Other alternatives, though, while not as immediately and physically destructive, ultimately lead to the same futility.  One important current example is in our political climate.

Seduced by scientism, distracted by materialism, insulated, like no humans before us, from the vicissitudes of sickness and the ubiquity of early death, the post-Christian West believes instead in something we have called progress — a gradual ascent of mankind toward reason, peace, and prosperity — as a substitute in many ways for our previous monotheism. We have constructed a capitalist system that turns individual selfishness into a collective asset and showers us with earthly goods; we have leveraged science for our own health and comfort. Our ability to extend this material bonanza to more and more people is how we define progress; and progress is what we call meaning…

But none of this material progress beckons humans to a way of life beyond mere satisfaction of our wants and needs. And this matters…

[S]ocial-justice ideology does everything a religion should. It offers an account of the whole: that human life and society and any kind of truth must be seen entirely as a function of social power structures, in which various groups have spent all of human existence oppressing other groups. And it provides a set of practices to resist and reverse this interlocking web of oppression — from regulating the workplace and policing the classroom to checking your own sin and even seeking to control language itself. I think of non-PC gaffes as the equivalent of old swear words. Like the puritans who were agape when someone said “g–damn,” the new faithful are scandalized when someone says something “problematic.” Another commonality of the zealot then and now: humorlessness.

The same cultish dynamic can be seen on the right. There, many profess nominal Christianity and yet demonstrate every day that they have left it far behind… This is why they could suddenly rally to a cult called Trump. He may be the least Christian person in America, but his persona met the religious need their own faiths had ceased to provide. The terrible truth of the last three years is that the fresh appeal of a leader-cult has overwhelmed the fading truths of Christianity.

This is why they are so hard to reach or to persuade and why nothing that Trump does or could do changes their minds. You cannot argue logically with a religion — which is why you cannot really argue with social-justice activists either. And what’s interesting is how support for Trump is greater among those who do not regularly attend church than among those who do…

And so we’re mistaken if we believe that the collapse of Christianity in America has led to a decline in religion. It has merely led to religious impulses being expressed by political cults… And this is how they threaten liberal democracy. They do not believe in the primacy of the individual, they believe the ends justify the means, they do not allow for doubt or reason, and their religious politics can brook no compromise.

I found these to be interesting thoughts, particularly coming from a writer who seems to believe he can reconcile his Roman Catholic practice with being an openly gay political pundit.  One of my first thoughts is that perhaps the Spirit is getting through to him.  I hope that’s the case.  He is correct about politics replacing theological faith as a source of meaning in our culture.  He is also correct about the effect of that on both Left and Right.  I supported Trump in 2016 because I thought that, even with his personal baggage, he’d do less damage than Her Hillariness.  I still hold a modest hope that he’ll be able to enact long-lasting reforms in some critical areas.  But unlike other Trump supporters I’ve encountered (who’ve made me very uncomfortable at times), I do not see him as America’s secular messiah, and I remain well aware of his flaws.

Sullivan may or may not have grasped the deeper point of his ponderings.  Reading the entirety of the piece, I’m not sure.  He compares the “Great Awokening” of modern times to the “Great Awakening” of old.  Only if we have another “Great Awakening” will our people once again channel their energies toward pursuing Christ.  And it is that pursuit that produces the fruit which previously sustained our society.  May God grant us revival, from “Awoke” to “Awake.”  As we’re painfully finding out, finding our identities in anything other than Him is a very poor substitute indeed.

Failing to defend the Faith

I’ve long considered Queen Elizabeth to be representative of class and tradition in an age that has largely rejected both.  But as this article points out, the history of her family — including Saturday’s marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — shows her descendants have decisively spurned whatever faith and self-discipline the Queen Mother possesses.  Even worse, under her reign, including the title “Defender of the Faith,” the Anglican Church has rejected many Christian doctrines in the name of “tolerance” and “inclusion.”  The result is a Britain in far worse shape than when Elizabeth ascended the throne more than 65 years ago.  She is the longest-reigning monarch in British history.  But despite her personal popularity, it’s not altogether clear her legacy will be on the whole a positive one.

…the courtship and wedding of Meghan and Harry, who is sixth in line for the throne, signaled a sea-change for the royal family in many ways. The bride is American, divorced, biracial, a Catholic, and a commoner, all of which would have been considered scandalous just a generation ago. (Markle was baptized into the Church of England in a private ceremony in March.)…

That the Church blessed the union at all, coming as it did after the couple had been openly cohabitating and in light of Markle’s divorce, signals a radical departure from the traditions of the church headed by Queen Elizabeth, who inherited the title “Defender of the Faith” on the day of her coronation.

While the queen is said to be a very religious woman, her children and grandchildren don’t appear to share her faith. The marriages of the children of the queen and Prince Philip have been replete with scandals and divorces — the most infamous being Prince Charles’s divorce from Princess Diana. Her children and grandchildren, not to mention her husband, openly defied church teachings with pre-marital and extramarital affairs and cohabitation before marriage. Both Prince William and Prince Harry shacked up with their future spouses before marriage, something that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago….

…according to a 2017 British Social Attitudes survey, more than half the population claims they have no religion and only three percent of adults under the age of 24 describe themselves as Anglican. Amongst those ages 18 to 24, three out of four say they have no religion. Among all adults in Britain, only 15 percent now identify as Anglican, 17 percent as Catholics or “other Christian,” and 6 percent say they belong to a non-Christian religion.  (((Spiritually, then, it is no surprise a Muslim is now mayor of London itself.  The influence of that pernicious religion is likely to grow ever stronger there in the vacuum left by the abandonment of Christ.  — Jemison)))

The Church of England’s decline in numbers closely follows the sad trajectory of other mainline Protestant churches. As is almost always the case, declines usually begin with the decision to compromise on longstanding church doctrines. The Church of England began ordaining women in 1994, and ten years later the first female bishops were ordained. Not long after, the church began unofficially blessing same-sex couples. And while the Church of England doesn’t yet officially allow for same-sex marriage, the stage has already been set for approval with the acceptance of clergy in same-sex civil partnerships.

What a long way the Church has come from 1936 when King Edward VIII abdicated his throne so he could wed American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Indeed.

“…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”  (Luke 12:48)

Is “diversity” good for America?

At every turn, we are assured by the media, too many politicians, and a whole host of activists that “diversity is our strength.”  Is it?  Some of the Founders would have dismissed such an idea.  John Quincy Adams, son of the second President, had this to say to his father in 1811:

“America is destined to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religious and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs.”  (emphasis added)

In this he was not falling far from the tree, so to speak.  During and after the American Revolution, the elder Adams strongly advocated English as a common language for the new nation.  George Washington, in his Farewell Address, noted the conditions of the younger Adams’ later observations were already present:

“With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.” (emphasis added)

We’re told that American-style liberty and self-governance is the desire of every human being; that in everyone, there’s an American struggling to break out.  Is that really true?  If so, then why are second-generation immigrants participating in terrorism?  Why are some advocating the adoption of an alien Sharia law system in the U.S.?  Why are there alien enclaves here waving foreign flags (while burning the U.S. one) and looking more like the lands of their ancestors than part of the United States?  Most importantly, who benefits from this conscious policy and why?

Culture is the wellspring from which a nation’s institutions flow.  The culture that created the United States was steeped in the Christian faith, the history of British self-governance and Enlightenment thinking about limited government.  Even today, those are hardly universal foundations for societies.   Around the world there are plenty of examples of what results when any or all of those pillars are missing.  So why would we not demand they continue to predominate here?  

America is now decades into its multicultural fetish.  But there is a tremendous difference between enjoying colorful assortments of dress, dance and cuisine, and acting as if all worldviews produce the same positive results.  They clearly do not.  I couldn’t help but think of the multiculturalists when I recently read about the custom in Madagascar of literally dancing with the corpses of dead family members.  I guarantee there are doctrinaire multiculturalists who would demand we not frown on such a horrific practice; that instead we celebrate what they would emphasize as an expression of love.  The problem is, such things have predictable consequences, such as the spreading of disease.  In most of Latin America (especially Brazil), the annual “Carnival” celebration is a license for utter debauchery.  In much of Islamic Africa, the genitals of young girls are mutilated in an attempt to mute their sexuality, a practice now flourishing in immigrant communities such as Detroit.

So what do we expect to happen when we have “diversity lotteries” for admission to the U.S., resulting in people moving here in large numbers directly from societies with such practices?  Is it not strange we have elected officials more concerned with protecting illegal immigrants than U.S. citizens?  We have forgotten, to our own peril, that the U.S., and more broadly Western Civilization, is unique in human history and that most of the world’s story is a uniform one of various flavors of subservience and misery for the average individual.  Too few Americans have personally experienced how different life outside the “developed world” can be, so they have no idea what’s at stake.

At the rate we’re going, though, many are about to find out.  Western Civilization once had the audacity to proclaim universal truths and standards of right and wrong.  But today it thinks of itself as merely one voice among many, and nothing special worth defending.  I believe the “diversity drive,” coupled with the now-prevalent idea there is no objective truth, will be noted by historians as the fatal acid that ate away the foundations of the United States.  The key question at this point is whether any of the original culture of this country will be preserved in what follows its approaching demise, or whether, as Winston Churchill once warned of the Nazi threat, “the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”