Before I began blogging at the Orthosphere, the only site that would publish my full-length essays was Intellectual Conservative. But IC was attacked by (undoubtedly leftist) hackers, and my writings there are not available. So I am reposting one of my IC essays, which makes the point that the social disorder brought on by the Left is unprecedented in human history. Never before has a society’s elites taught (as the Left teaches) that we must all agree that homosexuality is good, that it is wrong to deny foreigners the right to immigrate to our country, that we are a bad people because our ancestors had slaves and conquered a continent, and so on.
A Nation that Honors Sin
It is widely understood that Western Civilization — our civilization — is in an unprecedented crisis. But a crucial element of this crisis is rarely discussed: that America’s leaders generally want us to approve of sin. Not all sins, to be sure, but many. And a nation that approves of sin invites the wrath of God, in both the theological and the practical senses, as sinful activity is always destructive of individuals and society.
What is unprecedented is not the widespread occurrence of sin, nor even the widespread approval thereof. These have been common through history. It is the institutionalized, officially mandated approval of sin that is unprecedented. Widespread sin is bad enough; even worse is the approval thereof. But worst of all is for society’s leaders to promote the approval of sin.
Observe how our leaders generally expect and require us to approve of homosexuality, abortion, fornication, moral relativism, mass immigration and multiculturalism that are Balkanizing America, demonization and demotion of whites, rebellion against proper authority, and all the other sins loved by the Left. Disapproving of these sins is only permitted in private; our leaders want us publically to approve of and even celebrate much that is evil, perverted and destructively foolish. We must, in other words, approve of sin. Not all sins, to be sure, but many that no previous society in history has honored. It is the institutionalization — the mandating — of this approval that is the problem. For what society’s authorities teach, most people believe. And people act in accordance with their beliefs. If sin is held to be good, more sin will be committed, leading to more destruction.
To describe these disorders as “sins” may sound excessive. But the ills mentioned above are all manifestations of the most primal sin: rebellion against God. The liberal, in his approval of these sins, is rebelling against God’s authority. To understand the problem at its deepest level we must use religious language.
The mandatory approval of sin also demoralizes a nation. When America’s authorities did not require the approval of sins a man who found that his companions approved of what he knew to be wrong could always choose other companions. A man who realized that the worldview in which he had been raised was false and destructive was free – – albeit after a dark night of the soul – – to choose another worldview. But nowadays the man who disapproves of state-endorsed sins will find it more difficult to locate fellow dissenters. And if he cannot find companions to strengthen him he will be more likely to fall into despair, cynicism or nihilism as he sees the obviously wrong apparently in triumph.
And the increasingly intrusive apparatus of bureaucratic control forces many people to act as if they approve of sins they oppose. Think of the college professor who would suffer professionally if his companions knew that he opposed “gay rights,” of the nurse who would be fired if it were known that she opposed “reproductive rights” (i.e, abortion); of the college student whose grade would be arbitrarily lowered if he expressed opposition to the favoring of nonwhites at the expense of whites. The mandatory approval of sin forces many people to hide their true beliefs, and they often become demoralized at this erosion of their integrity.
Observe that our leaders do not demand only “tolerance.” Normal people understand that sin is bad and therefore tolerance in the true sense of the word (allowing the limited expression of something bad in order to secure a greater good) is unstable. Eventually, for most people, tolerance must change into either open disapproval or open approval, and our leaders must therefore demand that we approve of sin. Furthermore, man only approves of what he believes to be good and so our leaders have no choice but to demand that we regard as good the sins which the Left loves.
To describe the crisis as unprecedented brings to mind the only possible precedents: Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany and the communist nations. These societies did mandate the approval of many sins. But observe that Revolutionary France and Nazi Germany burned out quickly. Their leaders did not succeed in establishing stable societies. This leaves Communism as the only possible precedent.
But Communism is the brother of today’s Left. The communists were (and in a few nations still are) far more violent and tyrannical than the leftist rulers of the contemporary West, but their basic stance was essentially identical to that of today’s Left: religion is only opinion, society must be ruled by science, and man’s traditional allegiances to race, tribe, nation, and religion must be replaced by an allegiance to mankind as a whole. In some areas today’s Left goes farther than the communists; for example in demanding that we honor homosexuality and that whites be lowered so that minorities may rise. But overall the contemporary Left is the continuation of Communism by other means. Since it includes Communism, the crisis truly is unprecedented.
The Sins They Want Us to Love
Consider: While homosexuality and pederasty were common in ancient Greece and Rome, there were no Greco-Roman equivalents of the Human Rights Campaign or NAMBLA, nor was same sex pseudo-marriage a part of law or custom. Homosexuality was widely practiced. But — and this is the key point — it had no official approval as it does now. Indeed, homosexuality in the Greco-Roman world was analogous to drunkenness in contemporary America: widely practiced and even possessing a sort of folklore of its own, but officially regarded as a dangerous disorder.
Full verification of the general attitudes of ancient authorities toward homosexuality would require a book-length treatment. But consider these examples: Suetonius in The Twelve Caesars portrays homosexuality as one sign of a wicked Caesar’s vice and degeneracy. Plato in the Symposium portrays (in the words of the sage Diotima) the most noble type of love to be one that strives for immortality through procreation. And the Roman Lex Scantinia, a law code governing sexual behavior, imposed the death penalty for certain forms of homosexual conduct. The official approval of homosexuality was nowhere to be seen.
[Correction: Professor Bertonneau writes “Diotima doesn’t say that biological procreation is the highest form of love; she says that collaborating with a fellow Lover of Wisdom to create beautiful ideas is the highest form of love. But she does put biologically procreative love near the top of the hierarchy of types-of-love, and she defends procreation from the vulgar homosexualist attack against it in Pausanias’ speech.”
Consider also the status of abortion. Although abortion and infanticide were common in the ancient world there were no ancient equivalents of NARAL or Peter Singer, nor were there laws guaranteeing a woman’s “right to choose.” To the contrary, the authorities regarded abortion as the sinful destruction of human life that it is, because it was universally recognized by the authorities that fertility is a blessing. Abortion and infanticide were seen, correctly, as desperate responses to difficult circumstances, not as “human rights.”
And at the time Rome was being overrun (or perhaps simply supplanted) by barbarians there was no Gothic equivalent of MECHA or La Raza, nor was the “celebration of diversity” institutionalized. Mass immigration only occurred in the ancient world when one people invaded and subjugated another, which was only cause for celebration for the conquerors. Many of the ancient barbarian peoples, in fact, violated the rules of multiculturalism by taking up the ways (including Christianity) of the Roman society they recognized to be their cultural superior.
Note again: It is not the widespread existence or approval of evil, perversion and destructive foolishness that is unprecedented. Prior to modern times there were many individual writers who expressed their approval (or at least non-condemnation) of abortion, homosexuality, rebellion against authority, and so on. What is unprecedented is a society’s political, intellectual, cultural and even (God help us!) some religious leaders officially telling us that good people must approve of these sins. It’s the establishment of laws, rules and customs that institutionalize and formalize the approval of sin.
Think of it: Those of us who acknowledge homosexual activity and abortion as sins are not just disagreeing with the majority. We’re officially branded as wicked. If they choose to, leftists can attack us with a full array of society’s institutional apparatus: anti-discrimination laws, private attack organizations such as the ACLU, art that portrays vice as good and disapprovers as wicked, anti-discrimination brainwashing seminars, classroom lessons in which the instructors identify us as renegades and troublemakers, and even sermons from liberal clergy denouncing us.
Our leaders want us to love sin. But to love sin is to be disordered, and since this disordered love has become mandatory, Western societies have become disordered. Enough of the old order remains that these societies generally function at a tolerable level. We can still generally procure the necessities of life and live in relative safety, at least if we avoid the dangerous districts. But there is no mistaking the general downward trend. Since we are officially required to approve of a great deal of evil, perversion and dangerous foolishness, America and the West will continue to decline until some force successfully opposes our current disorder.
Consider: We are told to love homosexuality, and yet this disordered love — along with the love of all forms of non-marital sex — contributes to society’s increasing sterility. We are told to love multiculturalism, and yet this disordered love is dissolving our society into mutually hostile tribes. We are told to love moral relativism and consequently to hate the “judgmental,” and yet this disordered love destroys man’s ability to think and to act properly: If nothing is really true or good then nothing has real value, in which case passivity, cynicism and nihilism are natural and widespread responses. And when people, especially the young, are told the absurdity that they must love that which is obviously wrong, they often draw the conclusion that reality itself is absurd. Today’s mandatory love of sin is a prime cause of the passivity and nihilism that are so common among the young. Society is literally being de-moralized.
Mandating the love of sin makes sense when we consider that the Left’s prime moral directive – – and therefore America’s not-officially-acknowledged prime moral directive – – is Thou Shalt not Discriminate. To love what was once regarded as sinful is for the liberal a mark of sanctity, for it marks the one who is truly dedicated to the leftist revolution that will (allegedly) usher in, for the first time, a truly just society.
But all human activity, and especially the formation and maintenance of social order, is discriminatory. In a properly ordered society we discriminate against (that is, recognize as different and take appropriate action relative to) fellow citizens as opposed to foreigners, our spouses as opposed to other attractive persons, mothers as opposed to fathers, children as opposed to adults, law-followers as opposed to lawbreakers, and so on.
To live is to discriminate. But our leaders endorse the liberal principle of nondiscrimination, and no contrary principle is allowed to have authority. Christianity, American tradition, common sense: none of these trump nondiscrimination. Normal people assume that common sense will prevent our leaders from taking the nondiscrimination principal too far. It was once widely believed, for example, that the demand for homosexual rights would not lead to the demand for same-sex pseudo-marriage. But this belief has been proved false and since there is no theoretical limit on the left’s demand for nondiscrimination, it is as certain as the rotation of the Earth that the Left will soon be pushing for the legitimization of polygamy and bestiality.
In short, nondiscrimination is destruction, for it makes any organized, cohesive society impossible to maintain. To avoid discriminating against homosexuals we must destroy marriage, for if any group of adults living together is marriage then there is no reason to aspire to real marriage. To avoid discriminating against women we must destroy masculinity and femininity, for if all are to be treated as sexless then there is no reason to aspire to real manhood or womanhood. To avoid discriminating against other religions we must destroy Christianity (and every other traditional religion), for if all faiths are equally valid then they are also all equally worthless. To avoid discriminating against perverts and evildoers we must destroy the concept of sin. Everything that makes man distinct from the animals is to be dissolved in the universal acid of liberalism.
To treat all as equal is madness, and the Left’s actual goal is therefore the obliteration of society and the suicide of America. Few liberals are consciously aware of this goal, but it follows necessarily from the nature of the enterprise. Ordinary liberals assume common sense will prevent liberalism from going too far, but they are wrong. Only an organized anti-liberal force can prevent the destruction.
The unprecedented nature of the crisis often leads conservatives to misunderstand what must be done. When confronted with the well-orchestrated campaign to legitimize same-sex pseudo-marriage, for example, many libertarian-leaning conservatives oppose “defense-of-marriage” (DOMA) laws on the ground that it is not the proper business of government to define marriage. Since there has never before been an organized movement whose goals include the official derangement of sex and marriage, these conservatives fail to grasp the meaning of DOMA laws. Failing to understand that many of America’s leaders are committed to forcing the love of sin on the public, and thinking in terms of traditional politics, they see DOMA laws as a government power grab. In truth, they are precisely the opposite: A DOMA law is government attempting to block evildoers from perverting the official understanding of marriage. DOMA laws are not analogous to a government commissar forcing citizens to obey government edicts; they are analogous to the police preventing criminals from doing evil.
Conservatives also fail to grasp the unprecedented crisis when they fail to acknowledge the radical nature of the Left. Conservatives often assume that leftists agree with them in wanting the best for America, and that therefore conservatives can sometimes work with the Left toward this goal. But the Left does not want to govern American society within the general framework of traditional American ways. To them, traditional ways are sinful, and must be abolished, either by force or by manipulation. The Left wants to smash traditional America, and the sins they want us to honor are to them virtue. The Left does not just disagree with the Right on various concrete policies; it has a fundamentally different view of the True, the Good and the Beautiful. For conservatives to cooperate with the Left, they must act like liberals.
As a final example, observe that some Western conservatives are willing to consider making an alliance with socially conservative Moslems against the leftist menace. A high-profile example is Dinesh D’Souza, whose 2007 book The Enemy At Home: the Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 portrays non-radical Moslems as (conservative) America’s natural allies against both the leftists and the jihadists. Another example is the blogger who goes by the pseudonym Bonald, who sees Moslems as worshipping (albeit inaccurately) the same God Christians worship, and who has stated the desirability of Western conservatives making some sort of alliance with Islam against liberalism. (To be fair, we must note that Bonald has expressed second thoughts.)
Observe that these proposals are not just for limited tactical cooperation between Westerners and Moslems, which has previously been proposed from time to time by Westerners. No, what makes these proposals unusual (and mistaken) is their assumption of the possibility of a deep fellowship between Christians and Moslems.
[Update: I do not think that Bonald assumed “the possibility of a deep fellowship between Christians and Moslems.” He was, I think, proposing only a limited, tactical alliance.]
In both cases it appears to be the insanely destructive nature of the left that drives a conservative to take such a counter-intuitive position. Perhaps they would argue that unlike liberals, Moslems do not aim to obliterate Western civilization, only to make it submit to Allah. Under Islam, they might argue, public obscenity would once again not be tolerated, fathers would once again be heads of households, homosexuality would once again be acknowledged as sinful, society’s leaders would once again formally acknowledge the existence of God, and so on. For these reasons, they might argue, Islam can support an important part of the conservative agenda.
Although these proposals are both mistaken (albeit with noble motives), it is not the purpose of the present essay to prove their falsity. It must suffice here to state that Islamic and Western societies are radically incompatible, and that liberalism’s unprecedented campaign of destruction via the imposition of the love of sin has driven some conservatives to make proposals that no true conservative of previous times would have made.
What Can be Done?
What can protect us from the disorder brought by the Left? “Conservatism” is the traditional name for the defense of society’s proper order, but conventional conservatism is largely impotent to arrest the downward trend. The obvious continued success of the left (despite occasional local setbacks) proves conclusively that conservatism is failing to do its job. But why?
The error of conventional conservatism is to assume our society is basically sound. It is to assume we can defend our society only by opposing the latest initiatives of the Left and that if such initiatives are defeated, or at least watered down, then America will be safe and will continue to flourish.
But this is to fail to acknowledge the gravity of the crisis. On average, the masses believe what their leaders say they ought to believe, especially on the most fundamental principles of existence. When, for example, America’s leaders tell Americans they ought to be tolerant, nondiscriminatory and inclusive, especially of things that are obviously destructive, John Q. Public generally goes along. Most Americans do not publicly dispute liberalism’s most basic moral principle that Thou Shalt Not Discriminate. And since most Americans do not oppose liberalism, it continues its successful campaign of destruction.
It is probably for popularity’s sake that conventional conservatism assumes the soundness of society. Few people like to hear bad news, and many people retain some conservative instincts despite their general acquiescence to liberalism, in which case a superficial critique of the liberal status quo — one that avoids challenging basic liberal assumptions that are widely held — will be popular. But a physician who diagnoses a disorder must be truthful, not popular.
We must face facts: America, for the most part, approves of liberalism. Most Americans at least act as if they approve of agnosticism, nondiscrimination, and socialism. Many Americans disagree in their private lives, but most act as if they approve of these principles ruling the public square. And therefore American society becomes ever more disordered.
This leads to an obvious question. What organized force is capable of producing a more properly ordered America? We must reject the two most common answers: “Political organizations” and “Nothing can be done; we just have to evangelize individuals and pray.” Political organizations must be popular and therefore they cannot afford to oppose the leftist premises that are the ultimate cause of the disorder but are also popular. And Christian evangelism concerns the beliefs of individuals, not the structure of society. Evangelism and prayer may set the stage, but re-ordering society always requires deliberate, organized action.
Christian evangelism (at least of the protestant variety, and the author is a Protestant) only deals with the beliefs and actions of individuals, but social order is not determined by individuals. Society’s order — meaning the totality of its laws, rules, regulations, customs, traditions, and so on — is distinct from the beliefs of its individuals, although each obviously influences the other. Social order does not emerge spontaneously from the collective beliefs of its individuals. Order is deliberately built through processes that are largely invisible and poorly understood.
Consider: Why has the passage of so many defense-of-marriage laws done nothing to defeat the leftist campaign for the full legalization and legitimacy of same-sex pseudo-marriage? Because social order is not primarily created by the visible processes of politics such as elections and legislative action. Something deeper is at work, as the left successfully manipulates the institutions that determine the basic beliefs and practices of Americans so that more and more of them become willing to allow same sex pseudo-marriage.
If the ultimate cause of society’s disorder is the institutionalized approval of sin, then the only organized force capable of opposing this disorder is the church, meaning both the totality of all believers in Jesus Christ and the institutional apparatus of church leadership. Only the church is charged with preserving and disseminating the Words of God that authoritatively identify and oppose sin.
Exactly how the church will lead the re-ordering of society cannot be stated in advance. All we can say is how it will not be done: Not by supporting conventional political processes, because these cannot arrest the disorder. And not by having church leaders take over the civil government, because these are not the proper duties of church leaders.
But one obvious way the church could lead a cultural renewal is by teaching not just the Christian doctrine that is its primary teaching responsibility, but also principles of proper social order. Theologically conservative churches already teach some of these principles indirectly; for example, when they teach the sinfulness of fornication and abortion. But it is not enough to teach what is sinful for the individual to do. The order of society does not arise spontaneously from individuals practicing personal piety. Society’s laws, rules, customs, and traditions must also be made right by sociopolitical action, and the necessary foundation of a properly ordered society is a general belief among the population that society’s order ought to be proper. The people must believe, for example, not just that homosexuality is sinful, but also that law and custom must reflect this reality. They must believe not just that husbands ought to have primary authority in the home, but that society’s rules should honor this truth. The church must teach the necessity of a proper social order
We must also speak to the individual who feels powerless against the liberal juggernaut. What can one man do?
The individual man must inwardly reject the basic principles of liberalism while at the same time acknowledging that he will swim in a liberal sea for the foreseeable future. Blogger Lawrence Auster has expressed this point well:
The starting point, the indispensable condition of any conservative or traditionalist movement, as well as of our personal spiritual survival, is that we say NO to the prevailing values of the liberal order and that we keep saying no, that we never accept them inwardly, even while recognizing the fact that they exercise effective control over society at present and that we may need to accommodate ourselves to them to a certain degree in our external interactions with society. [Emphasis in original]
How can we respond personally to the disordered liberal society wrought by the legitimization of sin? How can we maintain our spirit? By fighting back, in whatever way we can. Can liberalism’s reign of destruction be ended? Of course it can, if enough men resist it. And the foundation of our resistance must be recognizing sin as sin although the authorities praise it. We must refuse to accept the false system of liberalism and we must aspire to a more properly-ordered society in the future even as we live within the liberal system of today. America, after all, is still our nation despite the sin into which she is sunk. We must keep her alive, looking to a better future.
[I am grateful to Professor Thomas F. Bertonneau for his insights about the beliefs of ancient Greco-Roman authorities.]