Sweet Land of Erotic Liberty, Of Thee I Sing

“‘No, I am not weak on transgender,’ Milley replied. ‘I just don’t care who sleeps with who.’”

General Mark Milley, quoted in Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker, “Inside the War Between Trump and His Generals,” The New Yorker (Aug. 15, 2022)

Professing not to care who sleeps with whom is a shibboleth of today’s enlightened thought.  Professing indifference to what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom is another way to perform this  obeisance to the priapic god of erotic liberation.  But the sentiment behind these shibboleth is, like that behind so many modern shibboleths, profoundly retarded because the future health and happiness of our race depends on nothing so much as who is today sleeping with whom, and what those adults do when their bedroom doors are closed.

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Might Not Our Pests be Somewhere Likewise Sent

Many people have noticed similarities between seventeenth-century Puritans and twenty-first-century Progressives.  The two sects share a similar sense of spiritual election, a similar conviction that they were put on earth to enlighten the nations, and a similar inability to leave decent folk alone.  Both sects attract freaks, hysterics and sadists, along with many persons of high (although narrow) intelligence.  Both antagonize their neighbors with grating sermons, unwelcome meddling, and obnoxious legislation. Continue reading

To change the culture V: metahistory

Today’s history is Whig history on steroids. Whig history is just the application of the anti-Christian good guys vs. bad guys narrative to the past, with the Left cast as the heroes and their clients the innocent victims. The fact that this history is generally accepted and almost never contested gives the Left tremendous moral authority. Conservatives are cast in the position of arguing “Yes, we’ve always been wrong in the past, but this time we’re right!”

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To change the culture IV: metaethics and storytelling

The trouble is not just that contemporary man reaches incorrect moral conclusions, but that his premises and modes of reasoning are off. From the basic principles of personal autonomy, cosmopolitanism, and the progressive moral hierarchy, evil is bound to follow. I do not believe any genius-level work is needed on the theoretical side to counter this. Our flags have already been planted on the two crucial counter-principles: particular loyalty (stressed by countless conservatives) and given meanings in the body being an ennobling rather than demeaning thing (enunciated most forcefully by Pope John Paul II). The trouble is how to make these principles appreciated, which is presumably a job for the arts.

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To change the culture III: metaphysics

There will be a revival of Christianity when it becomes impossible to write a popular manual of science without referring to the incarnation of the Word.

Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances, Chapter XXIII

Bruce Charlton is right–our disagreement with the World comes down to metaphysics. How does one choose a metaphysics? Rather, how does one choose between rival metaphysical assumptions? One cannot derive metaphysical beliefs from something more fundamental, because there is nothing more fundamental. One’s metaphysics must not conflict with experience, but that is a low bar; many systems provide some way of reading the observed facts. There are also internal checks. Whitehead says that a metaphysical system should be coherent, meaning not only that its parts don’t conflict, but that they all interrelate and co-depend. Metaphysics should also cohere with our scientific, psychological, aesthetic, and religious thinking. When one find oneself appealing to the (univocally) same concept when making sense of a quantum field theory calculation, when understanding the motives of an agitated friend, and when arguing that the Back to the Future sequels weren’t very good, one is inclined to accept that a concept with such reach has metaphysical validity.

What is the metaphysics of contemporary man? By his way of talking, he believes the universe has three basic components. First is “matter”, which is fundamentally a conglomeration of particles of some sort, although convenience leads us to give certain arbitrary groupings of particles their own names. (Like the ancient atomists, one probably must also posit space as an independent entity to make this work, but this will not be an important issue for what follows.) Second, there are “the laws of physics”, spoken as if actual entities rather than descriptions, which tell the particles how to move. The laws of physics at least logically pre-exist matter, because they created the universe ex nihilo. Finally, there is moral quality, which inheres in groups of people independent of their choices (free will is not required for moral quality), leading some to be identified as oppressors, others as oppressed. This moral quality does not seem to be grounded in a utilitarian calculus or neutral accounting of violations of some deontological moral law, but to be a primitive feature of the world. Finally, contemporary man believes truth is completely objective. He has shed all remnants of 20th century liberalism and postmodernism with its supposed multiplicity of “truths” and valid perspectives. No one may question “the science” (the truth of the first two components of the universe) or “justice” (the truth of the third).

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To change the culture II: speaking out

One reason the Left controls public spaces is that no one dares speak against them. Thus arises the idea that the Christian reactionary has a duty to speak out. I wish neither to encourage or discourage you from doing this. I only wish to help you clarify in your own mind what it is that you are wanting to do, and what you are hoping to accomplish by it.

  • Signaling allegiance. Some forms of “speaking out” are primarily intended to signal the alignment of the speaker with a particular cause or party. An example would be those “In this house we believe…” signs that Leftists put on their front yards. There is no attempt at an argument here. No conservative ever read one of those signs and changed his mind about anything. That’s not what they’re for. Certainly a Christian/reactionary could do something analogous, effectively putting a target on oneself and daring the cancelers to come for him. Why would he do this? The reason might be existential, of the “I have to look myself in the mirror when I shave” type. Or it might be strategic: one wishes to give heart to less courageous people of like mind and show to the undecided that Leftism is not indisputable. Ask yourself, why does Western society feel so much more totalitarian now than in 2019? It’s not COVID; it’s the fact that in 2020 every business and professional society decided it was part of their job to affirm and enforce Leftist orthodoxy. This was initially the “racial reckoning”, but it’s spread to everything, so that now every business has statements supporting Ukraine and abortion. These spaces should be contested. However, remember that what we need are not martyrs but survivors. Someone who speaks out and is fired is an example, a demonstration to all watching that the Leftist consensus is absolute. Someone who speaks out and is not fired but continues working as usual and interacting with co-workers has demonstrated that the Left does not totally own the workspace, which is indeed a major victory for us (in the sense of “getting us back toward where we were in 2019”). Note that for signaling allegiance, one must do it publicly under one’s own name for it to be meaningful at all. Nobody would bother anonymously posting “In this house we believe…” posters.
  • Teaching. Most people have a crude caricature of Christianity and non-Leftist thought put into their heads by post-WWII media and academia. We know better, having actually engaged with it from primary sources. This doesn’t mean we’re necessarily smarter than those who haven’t made this study, but from whatever accident of fate, we know things they don’t. One may consider one’s goal in speaking out to be pedagogical. You didn’t invent the arguments against democracy and for traditional sexual morality, but you know them, so you can share them. There is still much room for creativity in teaching–one must decide how to organize and present the body of knowledge. Whom should you teach? Those who are most open to learning–the undecided and mainstream conservatives. Unlike the allegiance signaler, the teacher can be anonymous. The point is the information being conveyed, not the commitment of the conveyor.
  • Researching. If you believe that significant rethinking of metaphysics, ethics, history, etc. is needed to recover the spiritual goods that before the Leftist onslaught we enjoyed unreflectively, then you may want to contribute to this intellectual project. This may require the work of a community of scholars rather than one isolated genius. If you can find this community, then with modest, not genius-level intellectual gifts, you can contribute to this project by working on some narrow aspect of the intellectual problems and communicating results to the community. Unlike the teacher, the researcher “speaks out” what he takes to be original thought. Unlike the allegiance signaler and teacher, the researcher is communicating mainly to those who already share his commitments. Without the community of scholars, narrow research is pointless, unless you have a passionate interest in some narrow question, in which case the point is personal and communication is secondary. The researcher cannot be anonymous, because dialogue with the community requires enduring recognized identity, but he can be pseudonymous. Indeed, if your work is valuable, there is an argument that the greater good is best served by protecting your livelihood. Like a good tenured professor, the Orthosphere engages in both teaching and research.
  • Revolutionizing. Or maybe you are trying to do isolated genius work, and your speaking out is presenting your new paradigm. I won’t make fun of you for that. As with the teacher and the researcher, the identity of the lone genius doesn’t matter, only his thought, so anonymity is fine. The lone genius by definition doesn’t require a community of fellow scholars, but he does require a society able to absorb his discoveries. You should put some thought into how you’re going to disseminate your work given the hostile media and academic environment. My recommendation would be to make friends with some teachers.

To change the culture I: the case of the mediocre reactionary

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?

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On Branding Romantic Christians Enemies of Christianity

Francis Berger worries about my recent categorization of Romantic Christianity as inimical to the Church, who is the Body of Christ, and thus of Christ himself, and of the Christian revelation and religion he founded. But he doesn’t quite deny that the shoe fits.

It rather does. I’m not saying this to be mean, but rather as an act of charity in telling the truth. It was not a truth I came to happily, as I have for long read with profit and admiration the writings of several of the Romantic Christians. It was rather forced on me by an honest confrontation with what they had themselves recently written.

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Loving the Wineskins More than the Wine

The Church is the body of believers, and only God knows for certain who is and is not part of that body.  This body was historically divided into the Church Militant, consisting of those believers who dwell on earth and are at war with Satan and the world, and the Church Triumphant, which has safely passed out of this life to enjoy, or at least anticipate with assurance, the life of the world to come.

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