Being for liberalism or democracy (the two are distinctly different things!!) is not the default Christian position. Many Protestants, and American Protestants in particular, have a very bad habit of thinking Christianity and democracy go hand in hand. They do not. Christianity, for the vast majority of history, has existed in non-democratic contexts and often thrived. There is nothing wrong with celebrating the achievements of liberal democracies because the achievements are impressive, but the defenders of liberal democracy downplay the weaknesses of this form of government, which we are starting to fully appreciate.
The dialogue intensifies. No longer is the idea that there is perhaps something fundamentally flawed with what has become of classical liberalism just a subject for stuffy academics in tweed. Common-sense informs us that there is a significant disconnect between the metaphysical reality that has been integral to Western Civilization and our current culture. Things simply do not make sense and many people have a difficult time understanding just how we got here. Many are starting to wake up to the fact that arguments over the Constitution, limiting government and culture are destined to fail and that subtle but certain authoritarianism is a distinct possibility.
My book, Retrenchment, is an additional, if meager, contribution to this dialogue, began perhaps as far back as 1981 in our current era by Schaeffer, fleshed out by Hoppe, masterfully articulated by MacIntyre, and finally given a name by Dreher. The idea that the very thing many hold so dear, “the ideals of democracy and Americanism”, may have gone terribly wrong and is poised to end in socialism and authoritarianism or soft totalitarianism is difficult to swallow. Most ‘conservatives’ have come to believe in American exceptionalism, how could it have all ended up so wrong? We need a lot more ordinary folks, like me coming to understand, talk about and write about this issue. It will not just go away nor self-correct.
These are tough issues, and the implications and questions these issues raise are uncomfortable. Yet, they are vitally important. We need those Kirkean guys in tweed and the old men sitting around as country stores, each in their own ways to begin discussing thee issues.
Things have changed, the culture is lost and is not likely to be gained back. As Hoppe pointed out in Democracy, the God that Failed, western democracies began to move toward failure since the mid-19th century. The idea that government is a moral agent, a propensity to expand governmental power and forgo Constitutional constraints were the hallmarks of this demise. Not that the culture has abandoned truth, and long-held Christian metaphysical reality, we see the cost of all of this – if only just now in a glimpse. Worse is to come I am afraid.
Virginia is poised to be a test case of sorts, a formerly ‘red’ state with historic roots of respect for natural rights to life liberty and property and a large gun-owning population now under the control of radical progressives. The incoming legislature, buttressed by a progressive liberal governor is foaming at the mouth to test the limits of its power. Virginia Senate Bill SB 16 “It is unlawful for any person to import, sell, manufacture, purchase, possess or transport an assault firearm” and makes such actions a Class 6 felony. (The American Spectator) The definition of “assault weapons” is pretty broad meaning that many Virginia citizens, law-abiding citizens might find themselves faced with surrendering their property or losing their liberty, both violations of natural rights protected under the Constitutions of Virginia and the US.
This is no small matter.
Already there is posturing in Virginia and in Washington with bellicose words and subtle threats. 75 counties in Virginia have passed ordinances or resolutions stating county police and sheriff departments will not enforce laws that violate the right to bear arms. This is a direct plea to the common law principle of the sheriff acting as an intermediary between the people and other powers. Under common law, the sheriff had a duty not only to enforce the law but to protect the people from external oppression and tyranny. Many that hold to the concept of natural rights protected under the Constitution have theorized for years that a fight such as this might come down to good sheriffs performing their higher duty.
This inconvenient historical fact has not escaped the radicals either in Richmond nor Washington. Some are suggesting that the governor use the National Guard to carry out confiscations, others have advocated defunding sheriffs departments that do not toe the line. The governor mentioned recently curring off the power and water to those that do not comply.
Of course, all of this is premature. If SB16 passes, which it probably will, it will be tied up in court for months or years. That is really not the point of all this. The radicals know they will not be grabbing any guns come March or April of next year. This is really a show of force. They are forcing the issue in a state where such talk was once unimaginable. They are forcing real Americans to react, to become afraid and to show their hands. Talk of empowering sheriffs departments to resist bad laws is important and necessary but it brings the topic to the surface and allows the radicals to attack the notion long before the court cases are settled. They now know exactly which counties and which sheriffs might actually stand up, they have a target list.
In Retrenchment, I discuss Saul Alinsky who essentially wrote the rule book for the radical progressive movement in Rules for Radicals. There can be no reprieve to the traditional viewpoint he advised. Radicals must press the issue deep, ridicule, isolate and ostracized opposing views until the revolution is complete and the opposition silenced. He pointed out that Lenin was happy to use the ballot box as long as the other side had the guns but that Lenin was pleased to consider bullets once his side had the guns.
Alinsky also preached polarization, isolation,and ridicule as methods the left should use. Now that county boards and sheriffs have stood up to identify themselves the radicals know who to individually target. It is all an almost perfectly applied strategy out of Rules for Radicals.
Another point that Alinsky made was that the leaders of the progressive revolution must always find new targets to assault so that the mobs and supporters do not get bored. Alinsky did not have a lot of confidence in the base supporters of radicalism to really understand the issues, he thought leaders needed to help them. One method to help was to always present new issues and new fights and to focus on wins.
Gun control, a historically hotly contested issue, is an easy win for the radicals at this point. They have already won as much of the culture war as is possible at the moment, it is too soon for the next stages of that fight. But gun control, that is something they can push with a vengeance.
Even if SB16 ultimately fails in court, this test case will move the ball forward. They are frontally assaulting a former red state and hundreds of thousands of real Americans living there that cherish their rights. It is bold, audacious and just the beginning.
What we should find most disturbing in all of this are the words the radicals are using. They carelessly toss about the notion of using the National Guard, which is not the militia but is really just the part-time Army at this point. And using this army to go to the homes of citizens to enforce the law and take property. Let that sink in for a moment. These people are saying this out loud and without shame. They are willing to send an army to private citizens’ homes, potentially to do violence. We fought a revolution over that issue among others, now the radicals have come to see the power of the Government and of violence as a positive good. A tool they may use to complete their revolution.
If they so callously believe this is ok in this case do you believe for a moment they will not apply the same logic to future brilliant ideas they codify into law? Religious liberty, free speech, freedom of association? Do you honestly believe any of those notions are sacred and sacrosanct in light of these developments?
We are on a perilous road toward authoritarianism. The loss of the Cultural war by traditional America was never about marriage or monuments, it was about principles. It was a fight against one side saying that good ideas and intentions ought to outweigh natural rights and common-sense. It was a fight against one side telling everyone else what to think and believe. Now they show their full hand and their willingness to do violence against those that oppose them.
The American Conservative posted piece calling the revelation of the Afghanistan Papers a #MeToo moment, with all sorts of former military folks and ‘experts’ coming out of the woodwork to say they knew also.
I have written about Iraq and Afghanistan since my first rotation in the middle east. I did most of my writing under a pseudonym ‘ElCid’, but it never would have been difficult to out me, I never hide where I was, what I did nor my rank and affiliation. I was not alone, there were many others, many posted on places like Soldiers for the Truth before that organization changed its focus. I was anti-war after my first rotation, not because I do not see the necessity of war, it was because I saw the futility of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I knew it early as a young man sitting in Shuras with village leaders, us passing out money to the old men were supposed to give to young men to get them to work instead of plant IEDs, it was obvious the old men sent the village idiots out to pick up trash for our money while the IEDs were still planted. I knew it sitting with Kurds in northern Iraq and them asking me tough questions about loyalty, trust and US policy that I could not honestly answer because none of it made any sense to me based upon true principles. It was obvious after going back much later to see the same spots that were once ‘tamed’ blow up in conflagration, nothing from before lasted. I knew it when assigned to train both Iraqi and Afghani troops, the appetite of higher-ups for ‘good news stories’ was insatiable. If you could not produce at least one storyboard per day talking about how great they were doing in their training or operations you were a failure, it did not matter that nothing good was going on, people made stuff up. It was most obvious working with a counter-terror finance team created as a result of SIGAR that MILLIONS of US dollars were being paid out to shell companies that directly or indirectly financed the adversary.
And the metrics, bafoons sitting in massive operations centers looking at elaborate COPs (massive digital displays) filled with drone feeds, metrics, and sundry data. It often reminded me of the body count nonsense for Vietnam, as a student of history, I wondered how we could be so stupid and foolish. Commanders thining that digital feeds and communications might allow them to actually understand what was going on.
If I am a hypocrite because I stayed in and went back for many more rotations, I will accept that title. I did it because I believed people that hold principles dear ought to serve. I also stayed because it was what God created me to do. A lot of people of conscience that I served with stayed for the same reason.
I am skeptical of those that want to make a now big deal of saying they knew, to come out like a hero and gain accolades in the media, especially those that did one rotation and got out years ago. If they knew, they ought to have been screaming the truth. Speaking up while one’s career might have been jeopardized would have been brave. Jumping on the bandwagon now because the MSM will give you a voice is a form of virtue signaling.
When Chick-fil-A fell and Kowtowed in the terrible event that will be remembered as the Cowtow of 2019 many suggested that if Christian Chicken could succumb to radical progressive pressure, no company large or small could. It seems now, that in addition to the traditional presentation of ‘gay’, as in sappy happy, Christmas movies on Hallmark the company now will promote the LGBTQ agenda as well. Less than 24 hours after Hallmark announced it would remove advertisements featuring a lesbian wedding they announced the following-
This is not surprising. It is the nature of the age we live in. The radical progressives are no longer the radicals – they own the culture.
If this upsets you or perplexes you, this means you are now the radical, the outsider looking in on a culture you do not understand. You are in the minority. It is time more folks came to fully understand that.
There have been several news articles of late quoting a Trump supporter as saying something like “there will be a Civil War if Trump is impeached”. These are click-bait pieces, intended to rile up a certain segment of the population with images of white men in their 50s or 60s with MAGA red hats and shotguns storming the steps of Congress.
On the face of it, this is simply preposterous. On a deeper level, there is something to this idea. No, not that Trump supporters would take to the streets in violence if the Senate actually impeached him and actually try and overthrow the government. That is not the real danger. The real danger is the government itself already looks pretty illegitimate to a lot of folks right and left. Impeaching a president, now, in this great divide, with clowns in office, right and left, could only serve to further delegitimize the government itself.
The far left sees the government as oppressive, its police forces unchecked and the government as a tool of inequity. The far-right sees the government as the champion of the destruction of traditional America and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. Everybody left, right and middle sees the federal government as incompetent and mired in silliness. It is not a far jump from thinking something an incompetent joke to actually seeing it as illegitimate.
No there will not be a Civil War if Trump were to be impeached but the pendulum does swing, and it is swinging harder with each iteration. Trump was a logical counter-reaction to Obama, the Alt-Right to Antifa, one party’s witch hunt is a reaction to the others when they were in power. The witch hunts will not stop, the pendulum will not stop swinging and the government will not suddenly start appearing more legitimate or competent. Ineptitude, investigations, chaos, and pettiness are now the very best Congress can provide America, no matter which party is in charge.
Somebody, one side, will eventually grow tired of the pendulum and violence will ensue someday. It is likely now, not just theoretical. It could take a year, or twenty, but a government cannot rule without violence once it becomes illegitimate – the Federal government has either crossed that line or is rapidly approaching it, it all depends upon your perspective. The apathy demonstrated by most is an absolute sign of this illegitimacy, a testimony equal to the anger and agitation on the far right and left.
An illegitimate government either crumbles, the least likely outcome, or resorts to violence to combat violence, to shore up its power in a vacuum of legitimacy. Authoritarianism often follows illegitimacy.
The cultural war has devastated a lot more than American traditions, it has polarized politics to such a degree that the government can no longer actually function to fulfill its purpose.
We elect guys with nicknames like “Tricky Dick” and “Slick Willie” and wonder why those men have scandal. We elect a guy that is first generation with a middle name of Hussain and investigate his ties to Kenya. We elect a fellow that demonstrates amorality in his personal life and we are shocked by his audacious tweets. But Americans elected these men, and perhaps as Hans Herman Hoppe pointed out in Democracy, The God that Failed that is the problem, the voters or more specifically democracy is the problem. Hoppe was echoing Alexis de Tocqueville’s sentiments about great requiring good. Americans elected these people, and despite the flaws of their choices, they expected the government to get to work. And perhaps that is the problem.
If the government is illegitimate and there are clowns running the halls of congress and bafoons regularly occupying the White House, whose fault is it? This is not a right or left issue, Trump cannot be the best and the brightest that conservatives might have found, he does not even qualify as a conservative in my mind. But have you taken a gander at the debate stage of the left recently? Are those people the best and the brightest from that side? Some of the Democratic offerings even propose eliminating the last “check on stupid” the Founder’s placed in the Constitution, the Electoral College. That is a brilliant idea!
If the government is illegitimate, it is because the electorate is at fault. We elect these people. We are the clowns.
In researching the topic I read Russell Moore’s Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Culture. In Retrenchment, I described Moore’s book as a much more optimistic version of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option and that mine was the most pessimistic of the three. Each tackled the issue of how Christians survive and thrive in a post-Christian civilization.
I was perhaps too kind.
Despite the fact that my denominational orientation and background are much closer aligned to Moore than Dreher, I found myself in agreement with Dreher much more than Moore. I explained this in Rethrenchment as perhaps a result of Moore’s book being with his publisher when Obergefell v Hodges was decided. I gave Moore the benefit of the doubt for being more touchy-feely, including social gospel innuendo and ignoring the massive cultural shift manifested into law in 2015 because Obergefell was not yet a reality.
I read within Onward some head-scratching notions, nuanced rather than stated outright, that smacked of some of the ideas that derive from bad ideology and sociological theories. After viewing a documentary by Founder’s Ministries called By Who’s Standard, I came to understand that the nuanced error I read in Onward was just that, a glimpse at the ideology Moore, and some leaders in the SBC, have come to embrace.
Christians have to change much of what we have been doing, but Moore’s prescription seems poisonous to me. From the front cover of Retrenchment.
fall apart, the center cannot hold
Old strategies no longer work, Christians no longer comprise a silent moral majority, our ideas are alien and our understanding of truth is difficult for the world to comprehend; something must change. Increasingly the general culture, the zeitgeist of the age, is hostile to our ideas. Ancient institutions based upon the Christian concept of truth have fallen; more will fall. Old assumptions about the nature and extent of our liberty and religious freedom seem to be proven false as we watch. Allies, once beacons of principle, have crumbled under the pressure of radicals; more will fall. Strange and false doctrines have replaced Christian teachings; entire denominations that once held to orthodox Christianity have succumbed. No church is immune, alien ideas, philosophies and theological doctrines have crept in everywhere.
Update: 8 January 2020
How many Southern Baptists actually know that their number one public representative and the most influential man in the denomination is in cahoots with George Soros? I suspect not many.
The SBC fought and cleared up errors in the “Battle for the Bible” beginning in 1979. It seems the SBC is poised for another fight, this time, it seems it is besieged by leaders deeply infatuated with error. The resolutions of the SBC during its convention this summer bode ill for the denomination and many Baptists that are paying attention and know better are not happy.
Critical theory is Marxism, it derives directly from it. It is WOKE ideology and it is dangerous.
As Chris Rosenburg commented: If you haven’t been keeping tabs on the SBC and their embracing of Critical Race Theory and the upheaval this is causing, then you need to see this documentary. It is a cautionary tale for ALL Christian denominations and a must-see.
The SBC is headed for a split and one side is headed toward an agreement with the UMC and “woke” mainline denominations.
I discuss the danger of adopting critical theory in Retrenchment.
Apparently, long before the full documentary was released many of the leaders of the SB, Woods, Moore, etc. objected strongly on social media and elsewhere to their own words being shown to demonstrate their positions, read bout that here.