All the world’s a stage. So we push through the fourth wall, pierce the spandex-ed heart of professional wrestling, and travel 400 years into the past to unmask our obsession with authenticity and our desire to walk the line between reality and fantasy.
the alt-right appealed to the young men — all of whom are white, conservative, and Evangelical — because it’s daring, and because the spirituality of megachurch Evangelicalism (in the kid’s view) is insipid. There was nothing much to inspire or to hold them. The alt-right fake “gospel” offered them an easy explanation of why they felt alienated and powerless, provided them with an enemy, and stoked their rage.
..It is anti-Christian, and it has strong arguments to make — not “strong” in the sense of “persuasive” (Rose is very much against the alt-right), but not arguments that can be easily dismissed with cries of “bigotbigotbigot!”
.. The alt-right is not stupid. It is deep. Its ideas are not ridiculous. They are serious. To appreciate this fact, one needs to inquire beyond its presence on social media, where its obnoxious use of insult, obscenity, and racism has earned it a reputation for moral idiocy. The reputation is deserved, but do not be deceived. Behind its online tantrums and personal attacks are arguments of genuine power and expanding appeal. As political scientist George Hawley conceded in a recent study, “Everything we have seen over the past year suggests that the alt-right will be around for the foreseeable future.”
.. The alt-right is anti-Christian. Not by implication or insinuation, but by confession. Its leading thinkers flaunt their rejection of Christianity and their desire to convert believers away from it. Greg Johnson, an influential theorist with a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of America, argues that “Christianity is one of the main causes of white decline” and a “necessary condition of white racial suicide.”
..“Like acid, Christianity burns through ties of kinship and blood,” writes Gregory Hood, one of the website’s most talented essayists. It is “the essential religious step in paving the way for decadent modernity and its toxic creeds.”
.. Alt-right thinkers are overwhelmingly atheists, but their worldview is not rooted in the secular Enlightenment, nor is it irreligious. Far from it. Read deeply in their sources—and make no mistake, the alt-right has an intellectual tradition—and you will discover a movement that takes Christian thought and culture seriously. It is a conflicted tribute paid to their chief adversary. Against Christianity it makes two related charges.
Beginning with the claim that Europe effectively created Christianity—not the other way around—it argues that Christian teachings have become socially and morally poisonous to the West. A major work of alt-right history opens with a widely echoed claim: “The introduction of Christianity has to count as the single greatest ideological catastrophe to ever strike Europe.”
.. Nietzsche got there first, of course — and he was not wrong about Christianity being a religion that exalts the meek.
.. Oswald Spengler’s Decline Of The West as a foundational text of the alt-right:
If Spengler’s theology is tendentious, his portrait of Western identity is deceptively powerful. To a young man lacking a strong identity he says, “This heroic culture is your inheritance, and yours alone. You stand in a line of men who have attained the highest excellences and freely endured the hardest challenges. Albert the Great, Cortés, Newton, Goethe, the Wright brothers all carry this daring spirit, and so do you.”
.. The juxtaposition was comic, just as it is comic to think about an obese, slovenly white guy vaping in front of his TV wearing a t-shirt sporting an image of, I dunno, Charlemagne, and a slogan claiming to be part of his lineage.
.. someone who is poor and at the bottom of the social hierarchy would find it consoling to identify with a hero — specifically, a racialized hero
.. There is no better introduction to alt-right theory than [Alain de Benoist’s] 1981 work On Being a Pagan. Its tone is serene, but its message is militant. Benoist argues that the West must choose between two warring visions of human life:
- biblical monotheism and
Benoist is a modern-day Celsus. Like his second-century predecessor, he writes to reawaken Europeans to their ancient faith. Paganism’s central claim is simple: that the world is holy and eternal. “Far from desacralizing the world,” Benoist tells us, paganism “sacralizes it in the literal sense of the word, since it regards the world as sacred.” Paganism is also a humanism. It recognizes man, the highest expression of nature, as the sole measure of the divine. God does not therefore create men; men make gods, which “exist” as ideal models that their creators strive to equal. “Man shares in the divine every time he surpasses himself,” Benoist writes, “every time he attains the boundaries of his best and strongest aspects.”
.. Benoist’s case against Christianity is that it forbids the expression of this “Faustian” vitality. It does so by placing the ultimate source of truth outside of humanity, in an otherworldly realm to which we must be subservient.
.. He accuses Christianity of crippling our most noble impulses. Christianity makes us strangers in our own skin, conning us into distrusting our strongest intuitions. We naturally respect beauty, health, and power, Benoist observes, but Christianity teaches us to revere the deformed, sick, and weak instead.
“Paganism does not reproach Christianity for defending the weak,” he explains. “It reproaches [Christianity] for exalting them in their weakness and viewing it as a sign of their election and their title to glory.”
.. Christianity is unable to protect European peoples and their cultures. Under Christianity, the West lives under a kind of double imprisonment. It exists under the power of a foreign religion and an alien deity. Christianity is not our religion. It thereby foments “nihilism.”
.. its universalism poisons our attachments to particular loyalties and ties. “If all men are brothers,” Benoist claims, “then no one can truly be a brother.”
.. Politics depends on the recognition of both outsiders and enemies, yet the Christian Church sees all people as potential members, indeed potential saints.
.. Christianity imparted to our culture an ethics that has mutated into what the alt-right calls “pathological altruism.” Its self-distrust, concern for victims, and fear of excluding outsiders—such values swindle Western peoples out of a preferential love for their own.
.. “Christianity provides an identity that is above or before racial and ethnic identity,” Richard Spencer complains. “It’s not like other religions that come out of a folk spirit.
.. invoking race as an emergency replacement for our fraying civic bonds. It is not alone; identity politics on the left is a response to the same erosion of belonging.
.. The alt-right is anti-Christian. But you cannot effectively fight the alt-right with progressive pieties and outrage. Nor can you effectively resist it with conventional conservative pieties, ones that do not address the crises that the alt-right is responding to
.. Richard Spencer is evil, but he is not stupid.
.. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.
.. Conventional conservatism is doing nothing, or nothing effective, to resist this tyranny. Do you know who does stand up to it, unapologetically? The alt-right. Andrew Sullivan’s piece is not about the alt-right, but I see both him and Matthew Rose sounding a very similar alarm. Pay attention; this is serious.
.. You too, conventional liberals: your own acceptance and promotion of illiberal, racialist ideology under the guise of “social justice” is calling up these demons on the Right. The best way you can fight the alt-right is to fight the SJWs, whose militancy, and whose effective militancy, can only make the alt-right stronger.
Third, we need to focus our circle of responsibility. . . . That means letting go of the things you can’t control—which includes the decisions that popes, bishops, pastors, councils, and church boards may make. . . . [If] you can’t get your congregation to care about homeless people, you can get involved yourself. If you can’t get your congregation to treat gay folks with respect, you can do so around your kitchen table. If you can’t get your church to focus on cross-racial relationships, you can take a step this Sunday and visit a church where you’re the minority, and from there, begin to build relationships. You don’t need anyone’s vote or permission to do these things: you only need to exercise your own responsibility and freedom.
.. Finally, we need to start small and celebrate small gains. One of the curses of late modernity was the belief that unless something was big and well-publicized, it didn’t count. . . . [Jesus] spoke of tiny mustard seeds, of a little yeast in a lot of dough, of a little flock, of the greatness of smallness, of a secret good deed and a simple cup of cold water given to one in need.
and while the disreputable sort of Calvinist and the disreputable sort of Catholic still brawl online, in official ecclesiastical circles the rule is to speak of the Reformation in regretful tones, like children following a bad divorce who hope that now that many years have passed the divided family can come together for a holiday, or at least an ecumenical communion service.
Meanwhile, the secular intelligentsia can only really celebrate the Reformation’s anniversary in instrumental terms. From the perspective of official liberalism, most of the Reformation fathers were fundamentalists and bigots, even worse in some cases than the Catholics they opposed. So for the Lutheran and Calvinist rebellions to be worth memorializing, it must be as a means to secularizing ends — the liberation of the individual from the shackles of religious authority, which allowed scientific inquiry and capitalism to flourish, made secular politics possible, and ultimately permitted liberalism to triumph.
.. a world that was built on the wreckage created by Christian civilization’s civil war. Neither the Protestants nor Catholics won that war between the faiths: The instrumentalists did, the Machiavellians, the Westerners who wanted political and economic life set free from the meddling of troublesome priests and turbulent prophets.
.. 500 years after Luther threaded his 95 tweets together and pinned them to a door in Wittenberg, it’s their propaganda that deserves the most scrutiny, the most skepticism, the strongest doubts.
At the heart of that propaganda is a simple story about authority and the individual. First, this story goes, Protestantism replaced the authority of the church with the authority of the Bible. Then, once it became clear that nobody could agree on what the Bible meant, the authority of conscience became pre-eminent — and from there we entered naturally (if with some bloody resistance from various reactionary forces) into the age of liberty, democracy and human rights.
.. The Reformation and its wars did indeed diminish religious authority, secularize politics and allow certain kinds of individualism to flourish. But they also empowered (and were exploited and worsened by) the great new gods of modernity, the almighty market and the centralizing state, which claimed their own kind of authority
.. eventually revived the worst tendencies of the old Christendom, anti-Semitism and millenarianism, in fascist and Communist experiments that added the genocide of millions to the modern state’s list of crimes.
.. because Cromwellism, mass murder in the service of secular power and commercial wealth, has just as strong a claim as liberty or individualism to define the world that succeeded Christendom’s collapse.
.. It is also possible to imagine a world where an undivided Roman church harnessed science and technology to its own sort of religious-totalitarian ends, and became a theocratic boot stamping on a human face, forever.
So perhaps the modern world as we know it was the best we could do, the only path to liberty and pluralism and mass prosperity, however many Cromwells it required to get here.
.. But my own (biased, Catholic) guess is that given the technological and social changes already at work in early modern Europe, the great new modern powers, the state and the commercial interest, would have come to bestride the world no matter what happened to Christian unity.
.. the history of Western colonial ventures, in which for hundreds of years it was mostly the intensely religious (as compromised and corrupted as their churches often were) that remonstrated against mass murder and enslavement, that sought to defend natives and establish norms for their protection
.. What are our pan-national institutions, our United Nations and European Union, all our interlocking NGOs, if not an attempt to recreate a kind of ecclesiastical power, a churchlike form of sovereignty, on the basis of thinner, less dogmatic but still essentially metaphysical ideas — the belief in human dignity and human rights?
.. But they are a made-up religion whose acolytes at some level know it — and the thinness of their metaphysics, their weak claim on human loyalties, makes them mostly just a pleasing cloak over the dark power that’s actually stabilized the modern world, the terrifying threat of nuclear war.
The main criticism I’ve seen is that the statement wasn’t broad enough. It said nothing about divorce, pornography, unnatural sexual practices within marriage, and things like that. The complaint is that the statement singled out SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) for special criticism, when the truth is, Christian witness and discipleship is threatened by many other sexual sins. In sum, the Nashville Statement, the criticism goes, failed to repudiate the Sexual Revolution.
.. Do people really think that Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Al Mohler, and Russell Moore (among other signatories) are okay with pornography, no-fault divorce, and the rest? Come on.
.. First off, some of the sexual stuff doesn’t need saying. For example, no serious Evangelical theologian believes that porn is okay.
.. More broadly, SOGI poses a more radical challenge to orthodox Christianity than the other things do. Most of these other practices are in some way perversions of a norm, but not a denial of it. Leaving aside direct Scriptural prohibitions of same-sex conduct, SOGI in essence denies the sexual complementarity and gender essentialism intrinsic to Christian anthropology.
.. Now, Catholic critics who have pointed out that the acceptance of contraception is at the root of so much sexual disorder among Christians have a point. There are other questions having to do with the metaphysics of modernity that ought
.. Now, practically speaking, it is certainly true that far more Christian lives, marriages, and families are ruined by easy divorce, porn, and the rest. It’s wrong for heterosexual Christians to pluck the speck out of LGBT eyes, while ignoring the log in our own.
The Trump administration hopes “Democrats will react by defending immigration and look ‘soft on gangs,’ ” aware that “if they push the envelope on this issue they can get coverage for their efforts and drown out Democratic efforts to change the topic.”
.. Brodnitz described Trump’s tactics as offering “ideas that sound really outlandish but that they believe have popular support — at least with their core voters” and that the Long Island speech was based on “the hope that Democrats would look more concerned about criminals than about crime and its victims.”
.. it has been difficult for the Democrats to recruit key white voters to consider an economic agenda in the face of concerted efforts by the Trump campaign and his administration to shift the focus to crime.
.. the percentage of Americans who said they had “great respect” for the police had risen from 64 percent in 2015 to 76 percent in 2016.
.. I think, yeah, a lot of people, whites anyway, think that the police are too constrained. When I watch the anarchists tear up Oakland, which happens pretty regularly, a part of me thinks “where are the 1968 Chicago police when we really need them?” These thugs behave the way they do in part because there are no consequences. Also, we see a lot of cases on TV where someone is resisting arrest, the police wrestle him down and hit him a few times, and then there are complaints about excessive force. Heavens’ sakes, if someone doesn’t comply with an order, what are the police supposed to do?
.. “Trump is endorsing the lex talionis — an eye for an eye,” Jonathan Haidt, the author of “The Righteous Mind” and a professor of ethical leadership at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business, wrote in an email. In his own surveys, conducted at YourMorals.org, “only a subset of people on the right endorse such beliefs; it’s basically the authoritarians, not the Burkean or ‘status quo’ conservatives.”
.. One question Haidt’s survey asks respondents is whether they agree or disagree with the idea that “a criminal should be made to suffer in the same way that his victim suffered.”
Haidt said “progressives strongly reject it, and it correlates fairly well with politics — the farther right you are, the more you endorse it.”
.. It appeals to one of our worst angels, the desire for “rough justice” — quick and brutal revenge inflicted on a suspected wrongdoer. The ultimate evolutionary rationale for revenge, vendettas, blood feuds, mob violence, summary justice, lynching, vigilantes, deadly ethnic riots, the code of the streets, and other forms of rough justice is deterrence: if a person anticipates getting beaten up for exploiting people, he’ll think twice about exploiting them.
Trump, in Pinker’s view, has focused on the most primitive and regressive emotions among voters:
.. Pinker sees this as part of an ongoing struggle.
The appeal of regressive impulses is perennial. The forces of liberalism, modernity, cosmopolitanism, the open society, and Enlightenment values always have to push against our innate tribalism, authoritarianism, and thirst for vengeance.
at times in history the darker forces prevail — the two world wars, the American crime wave from the 1960s to early 1990s, the rise of civil war in the developing world over that same period. These darker forces, moreover, are not just raw instincts, but often rationalized in ideologies.
.. This puts the Democrats in a dangerous position. The more they succeed in pushing Trump up against a wall, politically speaking, the more they risk the possibility that the he will inflict real damage, whether it is hostile engagement abroad or increasingly aggressive attacks on democratic institutions at home.
.. In an excerpt that was published by Politico, Flake describes
the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives — who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union — that it was almost impossible to believe.
.. What Flake recognizes, and what Democrats are only coming to realize, is that Trump represents a systemic assault on the legitimacy of America’s democratic processes, an attack that needs to be countered by far more that a modest collection of economic policies organized under the rubric “a better deal.”
Economists routinely talk about how this or that policy — on trade, taxes, whatever — creates “winners and losers.”
A big part of Donald Trump’s winning appeal in the 2016 election was that Americans were on the losing end of trade policy. Trump took it further, arguing that we don’t win wars or anything else anymore. Elect me, he promised, and you’ll grow tired of all the winning.
The logical and semantic inference of this rhetoric is that Americans, Trump voters, or the American military are losers.
.. “loser” is one of Trump’s favorite insults.
.. a lot of the people attracted to Islamic extremism are losers in all the meanings of the word.
- .. Omar Mateen, the avowed disciple of ISIS who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, was a screw-up and school bully who dreamed of becoming a police officer but ended up a very disgruntled security guard instead.
- The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, a college dropout, appears to have been a misfit.
.. Islamic terrorist organizations are hardly the only groups to recruit from the ranks of loserdom. Street gangs, neo-Nazis, and countless Communist fronts have been seducing resentful oddballs, outcasts, and misanthropes. It simply makes sense that such people would be attracted to such groups. Radical causes provide a sense of meaning, belonging, and importance to people who lack such things in their daily lives.
.. Osama bin Laden was the scion of a wealthy and prominent family. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor as the head of al-Qaeda, was from a successful Egyptian family of doctors and was himself a surgeon. They chose to become terrorists for ideological reasons. Subscribing to a doctrine first explicated by Sayyid Qutb, an Islamist intellectual, they believed that the true faith was losing the battle with the forces of modernity and the West.