The following series of posts (I have written five and will post two tomorrow and two Saturday) is not directly inspired by the recent spat with our Romantic Christian friends, but there is a connection. As far as specifics go, I am probably in sharper disagreement with the RCs than the rest of the Orthosphere, in that I think the path forward is not in intuition but in rigorous analysis, not in discarding the corporate and sacramental aspects of religion, but in reclaiming and highlighting them. However, the Romantics are to be praised for appreciating the magnitude of the intellectual and imaginative task before us. A revolution of thought is needed for Christianity to make sense to and be attractive for contemporary men. Simply reiterating past thought, even true past thought, will not be enough. Not that we have spiritually advanced, but too much that was taken for granted has now become conscious and disputable; too many vague ideas must confront the more precise language we have inherited.
Hence we hear that we must change the culture–ideally that of wider society, hopefully that of a saved remnant, at the very least that in our own heads. This is a large task. What exactly is being asked of us? And first of all, who precisely is to accomplish the revolution? What should the individual reader feel called to do?
Comparing myself to my coworkers, I seem to be less productive and creative, and yet I am also unable to maintain intensive hobbies (sports participation, musical instrument playing, book writing) like many of them do. I suspect this mostly comes down to my lower general intelligence. They also seem to have more agreeable personalities: I cannot imagine them sharing my inclination to swearing and short temper, and their greater extroversion makes them more willing to proactively offer help to others. On the other hand, I do not seem to be abnormally stupid, selfish, or cruel. I am a mediocrity, which is what I should a priori expect to find myself. Call it the “Copernican principle”: because perspective effects are so common, be suspicious of any indication that the observer is special. If I struck myself as particularly brilliant or imbecilic, this would probably be vanity or insecurity.
And yet, in another sense, I am definitely exceptional, in being a reactionary Christian. It is difficult to estimate the faction of the educated American public who explicitly reject the Enlightenment and its liberal and Leftist sequels. (I do not consider the opinions of “educated” people to have more inherent value, by the way, but a reactionary who has been to graduate school in the last half century is acutely conscious of rejecting the overwhelming consensus of his society, and so he tends to hold his beliefs with a defensive fanaticism.) Let us say it is somewhere between one in a thousand and one in a hundred thousand. That would make me quite remarkable, would it not? I am perhaps the only reactionary Christian in my profession in my and adjacent states.
Now, one might object that any holder of crackpot theories might say the same; a flat-earther could make the same unenviable boast. However, society is not organized against flat-earthers, does not define itself by contrast to them. Of the whole universe of kooky ideas, America and Western civilization have chosen to mobilize itself entirely against mine. The government, media, and academia considers its highest goal to fight beliefs that almost no one but me holds. Furthermore, the world and I agree that my dissent is no minor eccentricity. Even ten years ago it might have been, when people could maintain some sort of loyalty to Christianity and Western civilization while also vaguely accepting mainstream slogans about freedom, equality, and civil rights. Now the Left is becoming powerful enough to demand full renunciation of our inheritance, and no one will be able to refuse without consciously defying his entire society, including all its authorities and most non-negotiable moral assertions. Without becoming a religious reactionary, that is.
Hence the paradox. I am at once utterly mediocre and undeniably exceptional. My readers, except the very talented ones, are presumably instances of the same combination.
To be clear, the paradox is not how someone without exceptional intellectual or moral qualities came to have exceptional beliefs. There’s no mystery in that. The most common way to make a reactionary, I imagine, is for a kid from a rural, Christian background to acquire a fascination with some academic field, go to college, not find it immediately inhospitable (so he doesn’t drop out) but gradually realize that he and his kind are demon figures for all around him. In such a situation, most would adapt their beliefs to win the approval of their colleagues, but a non-negligible minority are temperamentally stubborn and radicalize in the opposite direction. That’s more or less what happened to me.
No, the paradox is a matter of divine providence. Given that so few have not gone over to the Enemy, it would seem that each one is important, so why did God create me instead of a more devoted Christian with more exceptional skills?
The ways of providence are inscrutable to me. I suppose our job is not to ask why God does what He does, but to ask what He would have us do. Answers come in two types. The first is that we are called to do only the same things that Christians have always been called to do. Pray, fast, grow in holiness. Protect your children; teach them, and prepare them to maintain the faith in a hostile world. Do not initiate confrontations, but do not go along with sinful actions or add your voice to wicked statements even if you are punished for refusing.
Given that there are so, so few of us, and the Church is under extraordinary assault, are we not called to do more? Doesn’t our duty to protect our children include making the world slightly less horrible for believers than we anticipate it becoming? Hence the second answer to what God wants us to do. I have often heard conservatives criticized from the Right for concerning ourselves only with politics, when what we really need to do is change the culture. The accusation is unfair in that it presumes this “change the culture” strategy was actually within our power. “Change the culture” may be good advice for a Goethe, a Hegel, a Beethoven, but hardly for a mediocrity. How am I personally supposed to change the culture? How am I supposed to even contribute to such a project?
Some say that doing all that usual good Christian stuff will automatically change the culture, at least some local culture. Absent a critical mass of good Christians, I don’t think that’s true. By all means, be a good Christian and raise your family well, but I want to focus on how we are to contest social spaces outside the family.
Second, I’ve heard it said that we need to “march through the institutions” just like the Left did. It’s worth trying–by all means, advance in your career–but Gramsci’s strategy relied on the assumption that the capitalist-liberal-Christian-fascist society would be sufficiently fair-minded and meritocratic to allow itself to be supplanted by hostile talent. He turned out to be right, but it takes a certain kind of (remarkably short-sighted) adversary to pull off this trick. We must be discreet in our Reaction to ascend in rank, but sufficiently indiscreet to change the culture. Quite a trick, but by all means try. One needn’t be a genius to march through an institution, but one must be skilled enough to rise to a position of influence. Remember, you will be competing for advancement with Leftists who live for their careers and advancing their cause and who don’t have kids to distract them.
Third, there are collective action strategies. The nice thing about these is that one doesn’t have to be a genius or even particularly skilled to participate. An example would be boycotting woke corporations. I’m not sure if that one would work, though, because aren’t they all woke? Now, one could say that if all the soda companies are pro-gay and anti-white, then one should just not drink soda. Tell yourself that soda is gross anyway. But that doesn’t generalize. I honestly doubt one can buy necessities anymore without financing evil. I guess one could look for the company whose woke protestations seemed the most pro forma, the least sincere, and support them. But then the activists will get word of this, turn the screws, and get that company to profess harder. Still, I’d like someone to look into the details of this strategy, see if there are enough neutral businesses for it to work, and make lists for the rest of us.
Fourth, one may feel a duty to “speak out”. This will be the subject of part 2.
Fifth, one may feel called to change the culture by challenging its false assumptions and offering something in their place, the sort of thing the Romantics and Orthosphere writers attempt to do on our blogs. Most of us lack the brainpower and creativity to be guides to the world, but each of us must at least formulate an understanding of the world for our own personal use, so I’ll devote parts 3 to 5 to what I believe are the three core pieces of this revolution and why the hardest work remains to be done.