Why the Future of the Dissident Right Is Christian
Old political orthodoxies are crumbling. A new vision has yet to form. Many criticize and critique the regime, but in the end, only Christianity can oppose the essence of the regime at its core.
For quite some time now, the Christian faith has been shunted to the side in the realms of Western culture. The European wars of religion fought in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation left a deep scar. They also created room for a rising commercial class to throw off the shackles of religion and to embrace the emerging rationalization of everything. It brought about revolutions. There was the introduction of new legal frameworks with a new moral framework based on natural rights. Democratic forms of government. The market was coming to influence more and more of society. No longer would the authority of “the Church” determine truth and falsehood. Competition, open discourse and the marketplace of ideas would determine truth. People would use evidence and observation, the powers of reason and not old superstitions nor the institution of the Church to advocate for truth. The best ideas would win ascent through competition and truth would emerge as a result. We did not need religion in the public spaces. Its passions were destructive. We could split society into the public spaces of the reason, science and the market, and the private spaces of faith and religion. In this way, we could break free from the dark old ways and reach for a new, better, emergent future. It was an optimistic time.
This idea, that we can have a “value free” and completely neutral public space is one which sounds good in practice, but comes laden with numerous problems. To begin with, it’s really a fiction that we tell ourselves. There is no such thing. It is not possible for such a space to exist because the idea of a “value free space” is itself a value laden proposition chosen at the outset and never subjected to the same criticisms as the various “value laden” propositions which are supposedly going to be arbitrated in this “value free” space. We can debate every idea except the possibility of rejecting the “value free” space. Likewise, the only idea which cannot be debated in the so-called “marketplace of ideas” is the rejection of such a mechanism in the pursuit of the truth. Both are merely accepted a priori as the frame within which we operate. We have a public space which is constructed around a set of values which says we should not discuss values in the public realm. This is a fiction.
In practice, what is meant is that we can discuss values, as long as they are not rooted in religious argumentation, especially if they originate from the Christian faith. You can make moral arguments, but you cannot do so saying things like “the Bible says” or “God says” or even things like “Calvin wrote” or “The Westminster Creed clearly indicates” or some such. Every once and a while you can get away with citing an argument from Aquinas or Augustine. But much more profitable are arguments which originate in Plato, Aristotle or some political or economic theorist. Better if these arguments sound scientific and come with data and charts.
We have come to think of arenas like public education as something “value neutral.” Same too the scientific disciplines. The thing is, if you are teaching, you are always teaching something, some form of content. It is not a matter whether or not to indoctrinate children, it is a matter of what indoctrination will you give them. If you want to form American patriots, you have to actively teach them what that means. You have to shape them into it. It is the reason my children attend a private Christian school. It is the reason that the left is very intentional about using the education system for the purpose of indoctrinating your children. It was easy, in the days when the culture was more unified, to believe the myth of a neutral public educational system that didn’t indoctrinate children but merely taught them “basic skills,” but those days are long past. This idea that all we need is “basic skills” is itself a system of values, this idea that we can separate moral values from the skills and information needed to succeed in the public arena. We are inculcating the children into this idea that religious values are separate from the educational tools you need for success. This idea is itself an ideology. Again, there is no escaping the reality that if you are teaching, you are always teaching something, some set of values, some set of beliefs, some set of morals. Indoctrination cannot be avoided. The only question is which belief system will you use to indoctrinate children.
Similar dynamics are at work with science. Objectivity is not a thing. There is no way for anyone to escape their culture, their moment in history, or even themselves when pursuing scientific inquiries. The very idea of science itself is a form of bias which says that if we confine ourselves to what can be measured, observed, and tested we can establish a firm foundation for knowing. Even in disciplines like theoretical physics, there is the possibility that the theory might be tested. And the theories are generally expressed mathematically, which gives the air of rational discipline and rigor as opposed to the fancies of philosophers and theologians. But science inherently excludes certain types of knowing. It is a frame. Even the so-called “laws of nature” only exist within this frame. As long as you make all the assumptions about knowledge and the world which are made in the scientific frame of knowing, then their conclusions can be said to be “universal.” But are so-called “universals” really universal, or merely the product of this frame and the language games necessary to make it function. Its efficacy and power have been its strongest argument. Its conclusions do grant you great power to manipulate and harness the forces of the nature and society. But this does not mean that science is either “objective” or an “neutral” arbiter of the truth. Even within the scientific frame, the decision to study this thing over that thing is a form of bias. The act of measuring a particle determines its state. Science, even in denying that it is a system of values, cannot be anything other than another set of values.
I could give example after example, but this gives you the main thrust of the argument. There is no such thing as a “neutral” “value free” space. There are always values and beliefs at work. Even the claim to be morally or religiously neutral is itself a moral and religious claim. So, while it may be possible to create an institutional separation between church organizations and the operation of the state, it is fundamentally flawed to say that you can create a public space that is free from religious values. There is no such thing as a truly “secular” state. There will always be a belief system at work. It is merely a matter of identifying the religious or quasi-religious commitments in play.
The New Secular Religion
Having squeezed Christianity out of the public sphere, relegating the faith and its institutions to the realm of “the private,” a vacuum was created. As noted above, you cannot create a neutral space. It has been said that we as humans are religious beings. It is not a matter of whether or not we worship some higher power, some god, but rather, the question is: which god? There are always belief systems at work. But are these religious in nature? Can something be religious without a god, without temples, without priests, without rituals? What is it that makes a set of beliefs, or even a philosophical commitment, religious in nature?
There are a number of things which, when clustered together, have a distinctly religious character. I don’t know whether this is a strict “history of religions” definition, but thinking about it myself, there seems to be a number of elements, which, when they come together scream: here is a religion. Is there a god that is worshiped? Is there a sacred order? Do the adherents gain power through worship? Does interaction with the god and the sacred order grant legitimacy and authority to its adherents? Does it provide meaning and satisfaction to its practitioners? In other words, it is able to provide many, if not most of the same functions of a religion?
Once you have pushed Christianity out of the public realm and it is no longer acting as the guardian of truth—it no longer gives its imprimatur—or the nature of the metaphysical order, or of morality, something must fill that void. All law is an expression of morality. All morality is an expression of religious values. Even in our post-modern world, there is a proscribed metaphysical order, no mater how fluid and plastic it might be. Who acts as the guardian of that order? Where is power drawn from, if it is not being drawn from the God of the Christian faith? Who has authority, and how is it granted?
It is a confluence of things, but all of them come together in the apparatus of “the state.” Power is drawn from the application of technique in the systems of administration, allowing government and business to harness the forces of society, organize them, rationalize them and turn them into a cohesive universal system. This power, combined with the credentialing system of the universities, and the impression of the unbiased methodologic rigor of science—whether the reality lives up to the pretense is a different question—tends to invest the state in its totality with the qualities of a god.
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Once the previously dominant Christian religion had been pushed aside, the state began to fill the roles it previously occupied. The state becomes the guardian of “universal values” which then dictate the morality of society. They impose these values with the force and intensity of a religious system. They develop rituals around this new belief system. Those who work within the vast network of this system become part of a new priestly class, ministering the universal values, the morality which flows from them, and the rituals and celebrations which surround them. The term “The Cathedral” took off in part because it captured the essence of what it happening. “The State” is also a big enough entity that it defies comprehension at this point. It is not just government. It is all the organizations which run on technique, that use rationalized, systematized management techniques. Business. Government. Universities. Media. Think tanks. Non-governmental organizations. Even most charities. In many cases, if you are part of a large church that uses modern management techniques or a para-church non-profit, you are part of the vast spiderweb of the “managerial state.” It is a single operating system. The whole complex is beyond anyone’s comprehension. It has become a “god.”
What of the “Death of God” and the Nietzschean “Will to Power”?
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