David Brooks of the Times recently wrote an interesting review of his friend Rod Dreher’s book, The Benedictine Option. The Robert Ludlumesque title is no indicator of the content within, which is a rehash of Oswald Spengler’s contention nearly a century ago that, as Western society degenerates once more into imperial decadence, Christianity is slated to head again into the catacombs. Dreher appears to accept, indeed celebrate, this. The culture war is lost, he concedes; time to head for the hills, and homeschool our tots in towns, villages and trailer parks far from the madding crowd and cable access.
Brooks explores this notion by starting off in the grand mode, separating humanity into “purists” and “ironists,” the former striving to bring, or at least live, Heaven On Earth, and the latter striving to do their best but not really expecting much and getting on amiably with those who hold alternative views. Brooks puts Dreher in the former category, himself in the latter. (I myself am wholly on the side of the ironists. Purity may be something to aspire to on an individual level, but those who expect to achieve it socially are fools, and those who intend to impose it on others devolve readily into monsters. Such purity is like not a little modern liberalism: one respects the impulse, and dread its clumsy implementation.)
When he examines Dreher more closely, however, we find Brooks (as usual) trying to find a way to support liberal policies and perspectives by couching it in Conservative terminology. I have never been quite sure if he’s aware of what he invariably ends up doing, but it is a signature tic. In the end his cry here is, a la Mao, “Let a hundred genders bloom!” as he assures us that Christians and their perspective will flourish in the court of Caligula, and that seventy incarnations of the Anal Sex and Bestiality Channel and twenty years of self-flagellation for the sin of Hetero Privilege in our educational institutions will not corrode the Pauline lifestyle one jot.
It will, of course, and Christians are not headed for a tolerated slot on the Rainbow Merry-Go-Round or even amiable disengagement in small towns but butch LGBTQ awareness-raising sessions in Room 101 with Party Member O’Brien of 1984 in suitable leathers. Historically, Christianity has typically been harshly persecuted in those countries in which it is a minority. So it was in Communist societies; so it is today in Muslim nations. Co-existence has been less a happy choice for Christians than for lions. Christianity flourishes when Christian societies flourish. Hence Dreher is wrong. The solution to Christian persecution is not disengagement but Christian hegemony: the Constantinian option. If Christianity is on the ropes, it needs to hit back while it still can, not run and hide. If it fails to do that, Christians will in the long run simply be hunted down like dogs, to survive, if at all, in catacombs.
Neither Brooks nor Dreher consider the Constantinian option, much less the genocidal ones, despite the many turns of both on the historical stage. Needless to say, Brooks frowns instead at Christian discomfort with the variety of sexual practices celebrated today. (He says nothing of similar discomfort on the part of Islamic believers, whose view of the LGBTQ phenomenon in a number of Muslim majority nations is to throw said practitioners off high buildings.) Brooks’ view seems to parallel an analogous sentiment expressed by a Fascist General in the Spanish Civil War: “Bugger them all; let God sort them out.” Transcendence can take care of itself.
Perhaps it can. But is that the whole story?
Why do I dwell on Brooks in tandem with Dreher rather than Dreher alone? Because liberalism is as much a shadow of Christianity as it is a secular ideology. In truth, it gone so far into being a shadow that it has become a heresy, and all notable Christian heresies are communities. How such a community receives innovations in its self-understanding impacts that community and those surrounding it in deeper ways than mere abstraction. Brooks’ reaction to Dreher is more important than Dreher.
In trying to re-work Dreher’s moan of pain into yet another paean to multiculturalism, Brooks retreats to his habitual default, to what James Burnham so trenchantly called the suicide the West. In so doing he not only misses Christian resilience, but also the opportunity to reflect on the trend rather than its content. For separatism seems everywhere in the ascendant. Whether it’s far right nationalism in Europe, safe spaces in universities, white nationalist conferences, or liberal calls to move to Canada in the wake of the election, there seems to be a relentless drive across the board to embrace an identity-fostering part rather than the identity-dissolving whole. Christian separatism is simply one more example, the longing for a no-go zone of one’s own.
This will to separation is a larger phenomenon than any will to Christian separatism, which is only one manifestation. I cannot help but feel that one major driver is the shallow but vastly powerful phenomenon of marketing segmentation, which is to say, yet another corrosive manifestation of late capitalism. It’s easier to sell customized products to a customized audience; indeed, oftentimes identity is the product, the driving reason why inner-city blacks listen to rap and smoke Kools while outer-city whites subscribe to Mother Jones and munch organic kale granola. Christianity, with its emphasis on denial, is an offense to the entire marketing process, to man as voracious consumer, whereas an ever-increasing variety of sexual indulgence only expands the scope for market niche profit. The problem is, ever-increasing segmentation is another word for ever-increasing fragmentation. Enough fragmentation and, as Yeats said, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
A more practical problem, however, is that all forms of perversion have a common leitmotiv: sterility. Gay society has no heirs, hence the Analocracy must ceaselessly recruit and propagandize, and propaganda cloys: there is always and eventually a pushback.
Gays, and Brooks, imagine that pushback will come from Christianity but they fail to see that, for demographic reasons, secular nationalism holds an even deeper disdain. Gays were not persecuted in Communist and fascist regimes because of Jesus: they were persecuted because Motherland and Fatherland want sons at the front and large and stable families at the rear. Current American policies are driven by profit-mongering, not national sustainability, but that appears to be changing. When it does so more thoroughly, Christians and perverts will not form one happy tolerant family above the fray, but more likely suffer a Roman order that has little tolerance for either.