“Can America Survive as a Post-Christian Nation?” (an article that you can read here) is the question that the National Review’s David French would like to ask you.
According to French, since America has abandoned its foundation for moral values, we have become MORE divided as a nation, not less.
French and myself have rarely seen eye-to-eye. He’s clearly a God fearing man, while I’m out there flapping in the wind. So naturally you might think I would disagree with Mr. French, an editor of a publication that I find sometimes provoking yet mostly laughable. But this time I think he’s on to something.
Can AMERICA survive this seemingly violent shift from religious to the secular?
My answer is: probably.
But yes, French is correct in assuming that nations runs much more smoothly when their leaders are united behind a common ideal (like Christianity) and are able to sell it to their people. That’s Political Science 101.
Yet as always, like any good conservative, French is stuck in this “good ol’ days” mentality when everyone said “sir” or “ma’am” and were able to smoke in cars with their children. Sure, those days were certainly good for people that look like French and myself, and were able to attend private religious institutions for their schooling (like French and myself). But they weren’t good for everyone.
Those days probably weren’t good days for MOST Americans.
What Christianity (most likely) did was permit people to grin and bear it….an extension of the whole “Protestant Ethic”. But that’s just an optimistic view. The reason why Americans seemingly got along better in the past (that is, if you’re David French) is because…you guessed it…white, Protestant, Americans ignored whatever wasn’t effecting them!
The National Review-reading conservatives today look back on the Civil Rights Movement as this glorious event in American History, but had they of been reading it in the 60s…they would have hated it! (Much like how they hate the current Civil Rights Movements like Black Lives Matter) These conservatives want to believe that the concerns various groups have just popped up in their heads one day and decided to complain about them, but these issues have been boiling for a very, VERY, long time….
….as far back to the good ol’ days when White Protestants dominated the land. But that’s how this version of conservativism operates: if WHITEY didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.
That’s why Christianity (specifically Protestantism) has such an appeal to guys like French. It provided a cloak for white guys to hide behind; to shield them from life outside their charmed and privileged lives…to insulate them, to help them believe that they’ve EARNED their existence and that if people are suffering, then they DESERVED it. Therefore there was no need to concern themselves with the lives of the less fortunate.
That America didn’t exist.
Now, in 2017, that cloak has been dropped. The veil that Christianity provided has been lifted (thanks in part to technology, the internet, 24 hour news cycle, etc.) and French is desperately trying lower it while saying “there’s nothing to see here”. Christianity was never a “unifier”. It was, as Marx suggested, an opiate to help Americans ignore the troubles that were going on outside.
However, French does invoke an interesting problem: the foundations on which our political spectrum is based. Is it now based on nothing at all?
I’ve always maintained that it was based on what French calls tribalism (again, Christianity only provided a banner under which various factions could rally behind. It was never a foundation.) Now that the veil of Christianity has been lifted, these factions have splintered, the Right especially, and have reverted back to a tribalistic nature that appeals to our sense of nihilism.
And this “nihilism” will eventually tear America apart.
I feel like I’m talking in circles here, but French has become infatuated with the veil of Christianity that Americans can now see through. If anything, the nothingness that has always lied underneath our political principles have just now been realized. In fact, I would argue that the LEFT is now in a grand state of deniability, more so than the Right, by living under the veil of (what French calls) “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”, OR the belief that God exists but doesn’t interfere with our affairs and our duty to one another is to be NICE (and when people aren’t nice, violently “call them out”). And French is right, this form of “deism” is insufficient and LAME. Meanwhile, the RIGHT has been divided into two groups: the traditional, Christian kind (the kind that David French is), and the alt-Right kind. The traditionalists are still living in a state of deniability by becoming “infatuated with the Veil”, while the Alt-Right quit giving a shit about traditions and revealed the Right to be what people have always known it to be: racist, xenophobic, and anti-feminist. They cut out Christianity, or the sugar coating over the bitter pill. This allowed them to finally say what they’ve always believed. If there is any sort of “moralistic foundations” or “supernatural force” that guides the Alt-Right, it’s the “invisible hand” of capitalism that gives them philosophical justification to be a DICK to others. And that’s what it’s always been about: the foundations for political beliefs boils down “Us Vs. Them”. That’s tribalism. It’s been that way forever. What French doesn’t understand is that Christianity (as an organized religion) doesn’t have a power in-itself, it’s a tool that others use to justify THEIR form of tribalism.
I should mention that I’m never really comfortable with “attacking” religion. I’m pretty far removed from being an atheist and, historically, belief in a Higher Power (much to the chagrin of atheists) has brought about critical thinking in morality, philosophy, and a number of other human achievements. We probably wouldn’t have our modern humanity without it all starting with a few simple questions: “is there a Higher Power? Can we know anything about It? Does It interact with our world? And if so, how can we live according to Its Order?” (Of course, those questions came AFTER the major question: “What happens when we die?”) I am simply attacking “organized religion”, which is more often than not used as a justification to do evil deeds in the name of “good”. So if anything, organized religion is a perversion of the metaphysical power that can be Faith in a Higher Power.
Am I making sense?
Anyways, I digress…
But what sticks out to me most about French’s thinking is that he is both advocating for the FUTURE of America AND Christianity. In the strictest form, the two cannot be compatible. Christianity (in its organized form) teaches that Jesus Christ will return at a time when we least expect it. Presumably when the world casts aside God and embraces a fully secular existence. Christ will return to bring about a new world, a Kingdom unified under ONE God. (That is, if I’m remembering this correctly) So if French is a TRUE believer, shouldn’t he be embracing America’s descent into tribalism (or, as he likes to say “giving man back to his nature”) because it brings him one step closer to utopia via Armageddon? This should be good news to French.
Is he warning America against turning away from his form of tribalism?