At my own blog, I’ve been arguing that the Catholic Church (and, I would expect, many others) suffers grievously from a lack among the baptized of basic “tribal” identification with the Church and with Catholics throughout the ages. They fail to identify attacks on the Church and on prior generations of Christians as attacks on themselves and upon their people, and they fail to apply to their attackers the category of enemy. In this, they are encouraged by theologians, apologists, and prelates who dismiss “tribalism”–including the whole moral consideration of loyalty, or any application of the friend-enemy distinction–as an intellectual or moral failing.
I think this issue is ready for wider discussion. Of course, the fate of the Roman Catholic Church is a matter of interest to most readers here, but I don’t think this weakness is unique to my Church. Since the point is particularist loyalty, I can be clearer if I continue to write below about this one ecclesial body, with the applications to Orthodox and Protestant bodies being direct and obvious analogies. My key points are
- It is licit to love the people and culture of Christian civilization, not only Christ Himself and the doctrines of the Church. There is nothing admirable in apologizing for or berating one’s ancestors in an attempt to win credibility with a hostile world.
- This is the main reason we’re loosing most of our young people. America and the mystical body of Christ are at war. If our children are given a strong visceral identification with the former but not the latter, we can expect them to apostatize. Teaching children rigorous arguments for all the doctrines of the faith is impossible (they leave home before they’re ready for it). Teaching them to identify as Catholic and see religious disputes through a friend-enemy lens is much easier.
- Grace builds upon nature. We should not scorn natural attachment to the Christian people out of a misguided preference for a purely supernatural attachment to the Triune God. Natural loyalty is a help, not a hinderance to the growth of charity. One who looks on past generations of Christians with affection is better prepared to love the Faith than one who looks on them with politically correct scorn.
- Following Carl Schmitt, we should recognize the distinctness of the friend-enemy categorization. Groups outside the true Church are to some extent in error and morally deficient, but the ascription of enemy status to a group is not directly a statement of its heterodoxy or of the personal sinfulness of its members. The enemy is the group that is a threat to our corporate existence, the group that is attacking us. Conversely, we can recognize other conservative Christian groups as allies without minimizing our theological differences.
Christianity is certainly a thing distinct from the traditional civilization of Europe. While Christianity was integral to our now dead civilization, it is meant for the entire human race. Our faith is ultimately in Christ, not in Christians, not even those Christians who are our ancestors and who built Christendom. And yet I do find it unseemly how our modern Christians try to prove our faith in Christ through our faithlessness to each other.
Hence the constant apologies. Apologies to the Muslims. Apologies to the Third World heathen. Endless abject groveling before the Jews. One should, I suppose, admire the faith of a man like Pope John Paul II who, in order to carry the Gospel unto all nations unencumbered by the sins of past faithful, was so thoroughly merciless in throwing his fellow Catholics under the proverbial bus…
Nowadays, “tribalism” is a term of abuse. Loyalty is seen as an emotional defect that interferes with justice. Our ideal would be man who would judge a case between his father and an enemy of the family with complete impartiality, a man who would weigh criticism from an enemy exactly the same as if it had come from a proven friend and ally, a man who esteems his people and other peoples according to an impartial standard of merit. Such a man is indeed admirable in a way, but who would want him for a friend, a brother, or a son?
Love shines forth more clearly when claims of objective superiority aren’t even made. When I think of Western civilization, I don’t think about any particular grand principle, scientific theory, technology, artistic masterpiece, or organizational form we’ve given the world. To the extent these really have objective merit, they don’t really belong to us, but to all peoples. When I think of Western civilization, I’m thinking of the charming quirks of our cultural landscape: brides in white dresses, haunted cemeteries, golden-haired princesses in need of rescue, that sort of thing. There’s nothing better about our dress, our folklore, or the beauty of our women that others should copy; that’s what makes these things ours.
Here’s what it comes down to. If the Kasperites, the MSM, the “Founding Fathers”, and the sodomites are right, then the priest-killing Jacobins and Bolsheviks were basically right. That proposition should be psychologically intolerable to anyone who truly identifies with Catholicism. The idea of siding with the Church’s persecutors, to admit that Voltaire, Garibaldi, and Lenin were actually right all along, should be so hateful to a Catholic that he dismisses arguments for it out of hand.
But isn’t tribalism inferior to holiness? Isn’t loving a people inferior to loving the Triune God? To this, I say that grace perfects nature rather than overriding it. Human attachment to the corporate body of Christ is a more fertile ground for supernatural attachment to that body than human alienation from it. To the liberals going on about “We are Church”, I say, if that were really true, you would respond to attacks on Catholicism as attacks on yourselves, and you would recognize the Church’s enemies as your own. If any liberal thinks that he’s just above tribal attachments of any kind, try gently criticizing the Democratic Party or the civil rights movement, and see how he responds.
Another worry one might have about us-versus-them is that it’s dangerous, because you miss out on valid criticism from outsiders. People have gone so far with this that openness to criticism is now considered a strength. Poppycock. Natural selection proves it. There are many associations in the world. Would you say that openness to demotivational criticism from outsiders is common or uncommon among them? Clearly such openness is maladaptive (something so obvious to me I have trouble arguing it), and the groups that survive and prosper teach their members not to give credence to enemies. Again, if a liberal argues against this, try suggesting that an organization he truly cares about follow this advice. No, once again it is only the Catholic Church that is expected to follow policies that guarantee her own destruction…
The best part: us-versus-them is easy to learn. You’re never too young! A mere choice of pronouns can make a world of difference. When speaking of Americans, do you ever call them “we” or “us”? Stop this immediately. Abortion and sodomy are in the Constitution; its official interpreters say so. Its elected officials insist there is “no place” in their realm for beliefs like ours. Believe them. Anyone who feels himself an American will feel psychologically compelled to follow the American herd like Jody Bottum. We are not Americans. Americans are Other. Love them as your enemies, but recognize them as your enemies.
The accursed council, Vatican II, was not a dogmatic council or a pastoral council (it’s documents are pedagogically useless, i.e. far less easy to understand than the Baltimore Catechism) but a political council. Its purpose was to designate friends and enemies. Before the council, Protestantism and liberalism were regarded as enemies. Vatican II decided that they were to be regarded as friends. Because Vatican II could not change dogma, it could do nothing to reduce our disagreements with the world, but it could declare these to be friendly disagreements. No dogma is involved in such decisions, but no infallibility attaches to it either. Any Catholic may disagree, and tribal Catholics do strongly disagree with the decision to psychologically disarm before liberalism–a one-sided disarmament, because liberals continue to treat us as an enemy. We condemn the council fathers according to our own particular category. We don’t question their morals or their orthodoxy (although the influential periti were certainly heretics). WE QUESTION THEIR LOYALTY.
…Ecumenism is pointless….But there can be an alliance…