We now seem to be at the end of a debate that has roiled the American Right for the past several years, or so says Sohrab Ahmari, one of the chief figures in that debate.

But before we get to that, it may help to briefly sum up the debate to this point. You might tell the story of this debate in three parts, at least is it took place popularly—the academic roots, unsurprisingly, go back much further.

Briefly, Rod Dreher brought about a significant shift in how Christian conservatives thought about their place in America with his book The Benedict Option. Though much misunderstood and misrepresented at the time, the core of Rod’s argument is simply that many elements of mainstream American life and culture had become hostile to Christian doctrine and corrosive of Christian piety, which calls for a necessary change in how the church approaches its life in the west. Specifically, Rod called on Christians to begin taking catechesis, spiritual formation, and communal life far more seriously than we had been up to that time.

While the book had its critics, I think many of them weren’t actually understanding Rod’s chief complaint, which is quite old and well-sourced amongst many notable modern Christians. Of course, Rod’s book had a political edge to it — but the edge largely presupposed that ongoing Democratic political triumph was inevitable. Indeed, the book was released in February 2017, which would have been an ideal release date for a book catering to alarmed religious conservatives, coming as it did a month after Hilary Clinton’s inauguration. That, of course, did not go quite as planned, on which more in a moment.

Not long after that, Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed became a surprise bestseller, catapulting Deneen to a new level of celebrity in the process. Deneen took Rod’s critique and escalated it, arguing that it wasn’t simply that modern liberalism was corrosive of religious life, but that this liberalism was actually hostile toward communal life of all sorts because of its understanding of the good life and, in particular, of freedom.

These two books, taken together, had the effect of happily awakening many religious conservatives to the dangers the contemporary regime posed toward religious life and toward the ongoing health of the western world. This was a welcome and needed wake up call as it exposed many of the failings and shortcomings of the 20th century regime and of post-Cold War America.

Then in the summer of 2019 First Things published Sohrab Ahmari’s bombshell essay attacking what he termed “David Frenchism.” By this term, Ahmari meant the limited-government liberalism of many older social conservatives that wedded a small-government political vision to a socially conservative cultural vision. Ahmari claimed that this vision hollowed out public life by creating a political and market arena that was broadly unanswerable to religious claims and, thus, tended toward the naked public square that Neuhaus had long warned us about.

However, the undercurrent to Ahmari’s claims was an embrace of Donald Trump and of Trumpism more generally, which rather discredited Ahmari’s supposed concern with restoring virtue in the public square. The chief point of Ahmarism, rather, seemed to be the promotion of an authoritarian right-wing socially conservative populism that embraces elements of left-wing revolutionary philosophy in order to advance right-wing goals. This was and remains my chief concern with Ahmari-style post-liberalism — that it would render virtue functionally irrelevant if vicious means turn out to be useful in the pursuit of power, which, of course, they have.

Indeed, if anything my concerns have been sharpened since that time. Ahmari’s allies have, amongst other things, argued that clerical sexual misconduct should be handled exclusively by the church, a claim which the past 20 years suggest will result in the protection of countless abusers in the Roman church. They have embraced a vision of political authority that would leave no real limiting mechanism to protect against plain tyranny. This is likely why Ahmari and co. are these days happy to align themselves with the Claremont Institute, even as Claremont itself elevates figures who have, amongst other things, endorsed polyamory and rape and whose politics are obviously vicious and should have no place in any meaningfully Christian political coalition. Thus when Ahmari says in his TAC piece that he and his friends have moved on from the debate, I agree with him. But I desperately wish they would go back to it, if only to keep themselves corralled to the domain of theory and somewhat removed from the actual possession of real power, a calling for which they seem, on the evidence so far, to be unqualified and unfit.

Of course, this raises a question: If the dead consensus—Ahmari’s “Frenchism”—is truly dead and if Ahmarism largely seems to be little more than Nietzscheanism by another name, then neither of these can be viable options for Christian conservatives. So where ought social conservatives to turn? This is my answer, for whatever it is worth.

There is a certain sort of story about American life that white Christian conservatives like to tell themselves. In this story, America is a spiritual battleground, a war zone in which forces of unbelief, secularism, and revolution are constantly striving after supremacy with Christian conservatives serving as the chief obstacle to their triumph.

At times, this narrative has had some credibility to it. During one particularly significant moment in the life of American Protestantism in the early 20th century it really was the white conservatives taking a significant role in combating heretical teachings that sought to undermine faith in scripture and belief in the resurrection, amongst other things.

And yet on the whole I find that story increasingly hard to maintain today. It seems to me, rather, that the American story is far more complicated than that and that white Christian conservatives have played the role of villain at least as often as they have the role of protagonist and hero. There are any number of ways we might prove the point.

Start with something recent and theological: Have white evangelicals championed orthodoxy on the doctrine of God? Plainly no — as Carl Trueman observed in conversation a number of years ago, white evangelicals have frequently been happy to compromise on the heart of Christian theology for the sake of political expedience. Indeed, Owen Strachan has repeatedly doubled down (quadrupled down, at this point I think?) on his quasi-Arian Christology — and yet despite this alarming embrace of plain heresy, John MacArthur was quite happy to endorse his recent book. Strachan is clearly the worst offender here, but given that other proponents of a similar view have included a one-time president of ETS and the author of the best-selling evangelical systematic theology of his generation, one can’t really argue that Strachan’s error is an isolated one or one without serious mainstream acceptance amongst many white conservative Protestants. So on the question “have white conservative Christians upheld orthodoxy against the threats of an unbelieving nation?” the answer, on the very subject of all theology, is “not really.”

Or consider another question: Have we modeled the heart and concern of Christ for the weak? The Roman Catholic church plainly hasn’t — that is why we have spent much of the past two decades being regularly confronted with that communion’s frequent indifference to the abuse of children by her clergy. This, of course, is precisely what made Pappin’s criticism of The Pillar so shameful. Conservative Protestants have often been plagued by similar failings and a similarly shameful indifference to the victims of clerical sexual abuse.

But we might also consider the problem of public justice more broadly — the giving to a person what they are owed. If a person is owed a certain standard of treatment by neighbors, government, or employers, then plainly we have failed here, as any history of our nation’s treatment of African Americans, immigrants, and Native Americans makes plain. People are owed honesty. Native Americans received an endless stream of broken promises. People are owed a fair wage for their labor. African Americans received slavery while many immigrants received (and receive) sub-standard wages and brutal working conditions. People are owed safety in their own homes. African Americans and Native Americans alike were (and are!) harassed at home.

No, it seems to me that David Walker said it best nearly 200 years ago when he said that America, far from being a city on a hill, is a country whose wickedness cries out to heaven for judgment and whose evil God cannot and will not forever ignore.

Even if one argues that America’s affronts to justice are not unique, one still must confront America’s inability to confront the reality of her past and present sins, a point that Eddie Glaude and Dante Stewart have both powerfully made in recent works:

This is the reality before us, it seems to me: in the imagining of the white American church, we are the heroes of the story, we are the people who stand in the gap, the people who stand athwart history saying “stop.” To borrow a concept deployed by both Daniel Dorman last week and Willie James Jennings in his work, we have made ourselves the center of the story.

But this is a false story of America. A truer story recognizes that the white church’s place relative to virtue, relative to the heart of God for the world and for his people, has most often been ambiguous at best, with rare bursts of light bursting through amidst much darkness and infidelity.

This is what makes the shifting in the liberalism debate wrought by Ahmari so sad. Prior to 2019, there was a real movement amongst Christian conservatives to begin seeing themselves apart from the American regime. They (we!) were learning to see a gap between what we wanted our communities to be and what America was. We wanted to see ourselves apart from the order that is responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of babies and for mounting a direct assault on the sanctity of marriage. And, potentially, we might also have learned to see ourselves apart from that same nation that also was responsible for literal centuries of race-based injustice perpetrated against millions.

But when the liberalism debate became tied to Donald Trump, as Ahmari linked it in his opening salvo, it inherently became connected to this other story of America that believes our nation once was great and should be again. Certainly, there are times in our history that we have done great things.

Yet even our triumphs are tinged with the persistent evils that beset our nation — defeating the Nazis while interning Japanese Americans and firebombing Tokyo, fighting anti-Jewish hatred all the while allowing segregation and vicious attacks against African Americans at home. (The book to read on this is Thomas Borstelmann’s The Cold War and the Color Line).

So whither Christian conservatives now? There are two answers:

First, toward the work we ought to have been doing all along: toward a fierce advocacy for justice. Yes, justice for the unborn and justice for the many children who are owed the chance to grow up in homes where they see themselves as enduring icons of their parents’ love. The Religious Right was right on both these points and we shouldn’t abandon this element of their legacy. But we must also advocate for justice for African Americans victimized by lawless police officers and systems of prejudice and theft that deny them the fruit of their own labor and justice also for the Native Americans whose lands we have stolen and whose cultures we have destroyed.

Until we begin to recognize, name, condemn, and resist the injustices that pervade America’s common life we will never, we will never, overcome the spirit of our day. The expressive individualism that so many on the right now lament is merely the next evolution of the colonial spirit that set our nation on the path it has continued down to the present. Those who say today that liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence and meaning apart from the dictates of unchosen communities are merely learning the lesson taught them by so many white Americans. It is they, after all, who have persistently refused to allow nature, custom, culture, or religion constrain their own behavior toward people of color and toward the land.

If we would reject that story, in both its progressive and conservative iterations, then we must recover the indivisible relationship between righteousness and justice.

Charlie Dates has said it well:

Righteousness is the root of justice and justice is the offspring of righteousness…. The notion of righteousness is related to justice. This is what makes the claim of the Gospel so scandalous. It is that we who are sinners are now through the shed blood of Jesus Christ made righteous before God and have peace with God. We have been justified. That is, righteousness has been credited to our sin depleted accounts. At the cross, God got justice and we got righteousness. So now in the church we who are righteous ought to be found fighting for justice. Throughout the Scripture the notions of righteousness and justice are not to be separated so why have we?

No church ought to be found declaring something righteous that is not justice. How is it that for so long American Christianity has had its finger on parsing the language of righteousness but its feet far from fighting injustice?

Now today we are witnessing the emergence of a new generation of Americans that are fascinated with justice but they haven’t met the author of righteousness. They are trying to get justice on the streets apart from understanding righteousness taught in our churches. And they will never find it. And at the same time we have a church that are preaching righteousness but will not fight for justice. Both of those are insufficient. Both are incomplete. Neither represent the full scope of God’s plan upon us.

When our preaching of righteousness is wed to advocacy for justice, perhaps then we might credibly claim to be upholding goodness against the wickedness of the American regime. But in that fight we will find ourselves waging war not merely against secularism, progressivism, and liberalism, but also against much that now goes under the name of conservatism. Where do we go? We go toward justice and we oppose those who work against justice, regardless of what letter they have next to their name or what political movement they align themselves with.

Second, we accept the possibility of exile. The great strength of The Benedict Option was that it assumed that martyrdom is a valid Christian vocation. Put another way, it assumed that there are times where Christians are given a binary choice between compromise and death and that, in such times, the correct choice is death. This is something many of us once knew.

Certainly, one finds the idea everywhere in the work of Tolkien, a man much loved amongst many American Christian conservatives. Though less explicit, it is also central to C. S. Lewis’s fiction as well, to say nothing of The Abolition of Man, a book entirely built upon the assumption that there is a natural order and that it would be better for a person to die than to violate it.

A friend recently shared an excerpt with me from a biography of Rushdooney in which the member of a hardline Christian conservative group reflected on the fruit of that group’s “ministry”:

The things of greatest emphasis at Westminster are money, personal power and influence, infiltration of other churches, government, social associations, paramilitary equipment and training, an elite inner core group and other cultic trappings. They talk constantly of the Law, humanism, the coming collapse of all economies, governments, etc. but never of love of God for a sinful people. The fruits of the Spirit are not evident in them, nor has a single soul been won to the Lord by their ministry. What happened is that some, coming out of other error or bad experience, are banding together in semi-secret hatred of all established orders.

You would need to change some of the specific references here, but that sounds like an alarmingly accurate description of many conservative Christian groups at present. But rejecting that obviously bad vision will mean embracing the sort of piety and politics that will make us both unpopular and vulnerable, in the likely event that God does not bless us with unexpected revival.

In short, the choice before us today is likely to either become like the Christians described above or to become martyrs of a sort. I hope and pray there are more than those two choices afforded us. But if there are not, then the choice should not be difficult, nor should it trouble us.

We should not naively romanticize what this will mean, to be clear. Nor should we positively desire exile as a good in itself. Exile will almost certainly mean the closing of churches, shuttering of colleges and universities, and a persistent hostility to the Gospel that will take many years to overcome, if it is overcome at all. All of this in turn means many people being lost, barring God reaching them through some other miraculous means — which he can, of course, do. No, we should not desire exile.

But we should be open to exile if the only other choice set before us is to betray the sober calling of Christian discipleship and the yoke of Christ put on us that calls us toward love of God and love of neighbor. If the cost of contending for our neighbors, all our neighbors, is exile then so be it. We might be pariahs for a season in the halls of American power, but given what those halls do and promote, is that such a loss? If a man gain the whole world and lose his own soul, what does it profit him? If the cost of fidelity to our Lord is exile, even martyrdom, then that is not a cost too high for the reward set before us.

This is where we should go after the liberalism debate. I have little hope that we will, for the inability of our churches to confront their own part in the persistent injustices of American life has proved far stronger than I once naively imagined them to be. And yet too I am reminded of something I heard Ross Douthat say once at a lecture, one in which he, perhaps ironically with the benefit of hindsight, shared the stage with one Patrick Deneen. Christians of all people should not be surprised by unexpected resurrection, Douthat joked.

And so I end here: There is no time so dark, no sin so deep, that those who look to Christ cannot still expect resurrection. So our hope endures, not because we forge political alliances that will protect us, but because we worship a King who has conquered already. We follow him. And if we follow him truly, we follow him to a cross—and then an empty grave.

Correction: I have revised the section regarding Gladden Pappin’s comments about The Pillar‘s recent reporting on clerical sexual misconduct to make the specific criticism I am making more clear.

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Posted by Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy and author of "In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World." He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play.

74 Comments

  1. I think there is a problem with the conception of the church that has to be more directly addressed. Many of the authors that you mention at the top just have a problem with prioritizing white middle class church and whatever good large scale ideas that you are attempting to list generously, cannot work because they are framed outside of the universal church.

    Many people did read Dreher (despite him telling everyone that they hadn’t) and they could see that in a book that talked about persecuted Christians he didn’t quote or talk about a single Black American Christian.

    I know you get there at the bottom of the article, but I think we are going to have to spend a lot more time addressing race because even now race is the most salient point of disagreement for the evangelical church. We like to talk about embracing all, but we do not actually do it.

    I think the easiest short hand of the problems of Christian nationalism is the exclusion and inclusion problem. Perry and Whitehead point out that Black Christians score high on the christian nationalism tests, but they don’t act like white Christian nationalists. Because Black Christians that score high used the Christian rhetorical ideals as a way to be inclusive to point out that we are not living up to them. While White Christian nationalists generally use the rhetoric to be exclusive and create hierarchies (gender, race, ethnicity, etc)

    We have seen how Dreher or Stracham or the Conservative Baptist Network or in that vein have prioritized their own comfort or positions not the empowerment of others.

    I like Moholland’s definition of spiritual formation, “becoming like Christ for the sake of others”. That central, “for the sake of others” has to be present.

    And whether is it Dreher or Ahmari or Trueman the evidence is that there is little interest in sacrificing for the sake of others. Which is the best short cut to seeing whether they are serious about a Christian sense of common good or public theology.

    Christians that are unwilling to submit are unwilling to really be Christian. I think one of the best tests of Christian leadership for White males would be to see if they are really willing to submit to a Black pastor for six months and actually learn. Unfortunately I think most would not really be willing, because they think that they don’t have anything to learn.

    Reply

    1. Well said. I’ve read Dreher for a number of years, and I don’t see anything particularly Christian about his writing. His chief interest appears to lie in restoring a hierarchical society in which straight, white, nominally Christian men are in charge. He’s only interested in liberalism if it can achieve that result. If it can’t, then, as he’s admitted, he’s fine with “soft authoritarianism.” To his credit, Dreher at least recognizes that someone like Donald Trump cannot lead this return to soft authoritarianism. Ahmari probably recognizes this too, but sees Trump as a transitional figure. But there’s nothing particularly Christian about these folks. Christianity simply serves an instrumental purpose, much the way the Catholic Church gave legitimacy to the Franco regime or to certain Nazi puppet governments in Eastern Europe.

      Deneen’s argument is more serious. But he doesn’t really have an alternative to liberalism. When I read his book, I came away with a better appreciation of some of the flaws inherent to liberalism. But every human political system has flaws. And Deneen doesn’t really offer up anything as a less flawed alternative. So, I came away more convinced that liberalism provides a workable baseline. We just need to be a bit more wary of its weaknesses.

      What interests me is the persistence of this illiberalism. David French left Ahmari for waste in their debate. Dreher has been rightly judged as the racist crackpot that he is. And Deneen recognizes that we don’t have any practical alternatives to liberalism. Moreover, as David French pointed out a few weeks ago in his regular piece, the decline theory just doesn’t hold up against the facts. Yuval Levin made much the same point in his AEI Banter appearance a few weeks ago.

      The decline thesis seems to rest on two main theses. First, it rests on the thesis that a just society tilts in favor of rule by straight, white, nominally Christian men. Second, it rests on the thesis that society needs an institutionally robust nominal Christianity to promote the first thesis. But if one rejects the first thesis (and every Christian should reject that thesis), the decline thesis largely unravels. Yes, issues concerning left-wing illiberalism remain. But, if right-wing illiberalism subsides, much left-wing illiberalism will probably subside too.

      Reply

      1. Dreher is racist. With that you lose all credibility.

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  2. My comment on the previous article was that the new dividing line that has formed in the church over the past two years is much more simply understood as being between those who would adopt the new cultural rhetoric and ethical framework that has triumphed post-George Floyd, and those who would not.

    Jake rightly points to some of the flaws and risks of the conservative side of that fault line – the Nietzscheanism abandonment of virtue in politics, a hatred of the established order that turns us against our neighbors, etc. These are important points! But, through these last two articles, Jake has also articulated which side of the *actual* fault line he has planted himself – that he finds it reasonable and appropriate to adopt the language and framework of the identitarian left and deploy it against the “other side” of the fault line. And because he deploys criticisms that are so weighed down by the presumptions of the identitarian left, I’m afraid even his good and valid critiques are drown out.

    To borrow a phrase, there is a certain sort of story about white Christian conservatives that the new “left” likes to tell itself. “White Christians” see the “white church” as the heroes of the American Christianity, or perhaps even more broadly, of the American story. In the face of ascendant progressivism, the “white church” continues to seek its own power and glory, rather than be honest about its own history and embrace the vocation of martyrdom.

    Of course, it should at least be admitted that this story relies heavily on an identitarian lens, one imported in from an ascendant progressivism. You’d be hard pressed to find even the worst avatars of this story (ex. Michael Flynn) having anything at all to say about “whiteness”. Indeed the SBC, PCA, and others, in the years preceding the George Floyd related upheavals, had gone through numerous processes of corporate repentance for past sins, and with remarkably little controversy! Of course that may seem pale now in comparison to a cultural mainstream that is so iconoclastic, so intent on obliterating its cultural mythology, so self-aware of its past sins, that even a “God the bless the USA” ringtone is apparently indicative of a commitment to white supremacy.

    In such a context, any sort of desire to pass on our cultural patrimony risks being seen as “centering whiteness”. Any political action meant to preserve social goods against an advancing progressivism risks being seen as “seeking glory” rather than “embracing martyrdom”. Anything short of a total obliteration of our patrimony and abandonment of truth claims can be measured against progressivism (perhaps of Eddie Glaude or some similar character) and be found wanting.

    The meme of milquetoast, culture-appeasing elites is certainly one that our evangelical intellectuals must resent. But I’m afraid its nearly inevitable when we adopt as our framework for critique of the church the fashionable mores of the left. The progressive left may be pleased with a Christian public witness that is ever more self-denigrating and politically passive; we may find when we adopt their framework that we arrive at those same goals.

    Reply

    1. I don’t see where the author promotes the identitarianism of the far left. Yes, we should reject the kind of identitarianism that principally values people based on their ethnic heritage. But one can certainly acknowledge the reality of systemic racism and institutional bias without accepting the identitarianism of the far left.

      I’d suggest that there are two lines. The two lines separate those who accept the basic premises of liberalism from the right-wing identitarians and the left-wing identitarians, There are probably some soft lines that separate various liberals from others. As someone who accepts the premises of liberalism as the best workable alternative we have (but who remains a political conservative), I can acknowledge that both illiberal camps are correct on certain points. But I believe that liberalism is flexible enough to address these points in a reasonable way.

      This need for right-wing illiberals to resort to false dichotomies ought to cause one to question whether right-wing illiberalism makes any sense. If you have to lie about the complexity of reality to make your political views seem plausible, then perhaps your political views aren’t all that plausible.

      Reply

      1. “One can certainly acknowledge the reality of systemic racism and institutional bias without accepting the identitarianism of the far left.”

        In other words, one can accept the identitarianism of the left without accepting the identitarianism of the left.

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        1. If your assumption is that we can not deal with the injustice which Christians have been complicit in without denying Christianity then Christians are left with acceptance of injustice as a requirement for Christianity.

          I think that is exactly the type of line that Jake is identifying.

          Reply

        2. There’s nothing identitarian about recognizing and acknowledging that injustice often has a systemic and institutional component.

          The far left is offering identitarianism as the solution to that problem. But the solution and the problem aren’t the same. One can certainly acknowledge the problem without accepting the illiberal left’s solution to it.

          But, by disingenuously denying the existence of the problem, the illiberal right actually makes it more likely that left-wing solutions will prevail. That’s because those who deny a problem don’t get invited to the table to provide solutions.

          Reply

          1. Sam, I can’t actually parse this. Partly because of the Iron Law of Woke Projection, and partly because I’m not sure how you’re defining the “illiberal right”. I would include the communitarians in that camp, which includes ML Anderson and I’d suppose most if not all of the contributors here. Communitarians are deeply influenced by postmodernism, and always musing about where the West (or the US as the exemplar) went fundamentally wrong and how we might start society over from scratch (or waiting for St. Benedict to lead us there). Even if they don’t have any plans to do it, neither do the Neo-Marxists so I don’t see a good basis not to lump them together. So bottom line is I can’t be sure who you’re saying is denying what, so I don’t know if I agree with you or not.

            And I always get the feeling in the debates where politics and Christianity are involved that failure to distinguish religious goals looms large. I agree with atheists where we have common ground politically, and it doesn’t compromise my Christian belief. Why can’t John MacArthur do that? I don’t think Christians are happy unless people are denounced for heresy, and on that basis they declare their political beliefs not worthy of affirmation. I always thought Mark 12:17 declared an essential and critical distinction, and I frequently think failure to understand that distinction is at the bottom of much of the political confusion that seems to abound when Christians think as citizens.

          2. I find it amazing how communitarians confidently and stridently assert such theologically troubling statements such as “life and culture” is or could be “hostile to Christian doctrine and corrosive of Christian piety”. And no one questions this at all. If one assume it’s truth, then I presume one has deep communitarian attachments. Such a one probably feels absolute bliss when reading Alasdair MacIntyre or Charles Taylor’s less cerebral parts. The parts that communicate an attitude about society or ‘modernity’, whatever the hell that’s supposed to be.

            The communitarian thinking process is akin to critical theory at the most general level. It’s the same process as used by neo-marxists. Namely:

            1) adopt an ideal vision of society
            2) critique the existing society on the basis of that ideal
            3) inspire social action that attempts to achieve this idealized society

            It’s so bad at this point that many actually confuse communitarianism with Christianity. It’s not rare at all to hear a communitarian gospel straight out of the social sciences preached as if it’s the Christian Gospel or is a key part of it. Last I checked it’s not. It’s part of a political view about the best society.

          3. We’re probably all communitarians at some level. In that sense, our nation’s pluralism is a kind of lumpy pluralism. Despite the nation’s diversity, most of us move in rather homogeneous subcultures where most people are fairly similar to us. As a result, we can come to develop unconscious biases against members of other subcultures. We’d probably all do better to take explicit consideration of the subcultures in which we move, the biases that are likely to plague us, and how we can do better.

            That becomes difficult in the White Evangelical subculture because so many of its subcultural adiaphora have been incorporated into its theology. And, in many cases, conformity on these adiaphora is emphasized more than (or even to the exclusion of) Nicene orthodoxy. The whole “theology” around gender roles is the most notable example.

            One need not be a Marxist to acknowledge that subcultural membership tends to shape people and their conduct. The root of this probably lies more with Hegel than with Marx. Marx took it in a particular direction. But one could just as easily take the same approach and take it in the direction of the American pragmatists like George Herbert Mead.

          4. Ryo D: Not sure why there’s no ‘reply’ button on your comment so I clicked one further up.

            No, one need not be a Marxist to acknowledge that subcultural membership tends to shape people and their conduct, neo-Marxism isn’t Marxism, and of course Marx adapted Hegel. And yes, probably everyone here but me is probably a communitarian. Why would anyone else come here when communitarianism is always the main topic or subtext? It’s just unspoken. Group membership is done by virtue signal, and we all know how to do it.

            Any Christian not disputing my contention that communitarianism is process oriented, as is Neo-Marxism, as is any critical theory, is a communitarian. To restate, that dialectic process is:

            1) adopt an ideal vision of society
            2) critique the existing society on the basis of that ideal
            3) inspire social action that attempts to achieve this idealized society

            That isn’t the Gospel. It isn’t Christianity. That’s it’s being promoted as such by some, and that it’s promoted as part and parcel of Christianity (for example as some hold pacifism to be) by others, is the conflation of Christianity with the social sciences. It’s Jesusy sounding heresy. That communitarians meet such a fundamental challenge to their ideology with silence–though I know it will happen– I have to say never ceases to amaze me nonetheless.

          5. Christianity isn’t a damn process. And no, critical theory isn’t mere self-criticism or self-evaluation.

          6. “That becomes difficult in the White Evangelical subculture because so many of its subcultural adiaphora have been incorporated into its theology.”

            Hmm, yes and perhaps it also becomes difficult in the left-of-center evangelical/exvangelical subculture (also largely white), in which so many of its own subcultural presuppositions have been incorporated into its theology.

            In that “subculture”, and it the broader secular culture in which its situated, you may find that postmodern, deconstructionist approaches to theological assertions are all the rage! You may find yourself adopting those very modes of thought, until one day – lo and behold! – the ways in which Christianity has most alienated you from comtemporary culture (its archaic gender roles, views of sexuality, etc.) can now be explained away simply by ascribing to them the cultural biases of “white evangelicalism”.

            The “whole theology around gender roles” provides a helpful example of this, though perhaps not in the way you’d hoped. You might examine the views of the patristics, the medieval church (east & west), the reformers and so on, and measure against them your own views of gender vs that of “white evangelicalism”. Which has great distance from the consensus of the church, and which is closer to the consensus of your own cultural surroundings? And what does that say about your presumptions of cultural bias?

            So, yes, theology can certainly be influenced by culture. But the solution is not, as you seem to presume, cultural “pluralism” (which itself is a primarily white, western, post-enlightenment, ideologically-laden concept). No, the solution to that problem is found, and has ALWAYS been found, in the great tradition. The consensus of the church throughout its history gives us the lens by which we can examine our theological commitments and priorities, and to locate where they might be culturally conditioned.

          7. Hi Mark. The reply button disappears a few levels down.

            If neo-Marxism isn’t Marxist, then I’d recommend using a different term. This seems like a disingenuous attempt to discredit something without engaging its merits substantively.

            I agree that there tends to be a trend among the writers here towards epistemic and ethical idealism. I’m more of an epistemic and ethical realist.

            Even so, I’d suggest that there’s a general obligation of all Christians to promote justice in our society. One can certainly recognize and critique injustice without becoming an ethical idealist.

            Lastly, the traditional white evangelical movement also functions with certain social ideals. And most of those ideals weren’t derived from the Gospel. Rather, they were derived from mid-20th-century social norms among middle-class whites in the US.

          8. @Sam

            I agree that the evangelical left suffers from the same problem as the evangelical right. Both tend to recast secular wisdom concerning social and political issues as being mandated by Scripture. But the evangelical left consists of about 25 people on Twitter. It’s not comparable to the evangelical right, which has more than 50 million adherents in the US.

            Also, I agree that there’s some wisdom to be gained by looking at tradition. But I see no reason to accept traditional practices without reservation. Never mind that the subcultural adiaphora of White Evangelicalism aren’t all that traditional. They’re mostly the product of the middle decades of the 20th century.

            Lastly, I agree that there’s a fair bit of practical wisdom contained in the principles that White Evangelicalism promotes. Where I disagree with White Evangelicalism is on the question of whether such practical wisdom is biblically mandated. I don’t believe that it is, and the church would be better off admitting as much.

        3. Exactly, Sam. Thank you. Please keep speaking up.

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    2. Perfectly stated.

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  3. We should certainly be willing to go into exile and certainly be vigorous to advocate for justice. But we should also look for leaders who have a better grasp of the data and take fewer cues from Twitter and dishonest prestige media. Honestly, Jake, it’s more than a little clueless to be talking only about police violence against blacks in November 2021, when the post-Floyd-era has seen an absolutely stunning increase in homicides (not from police officers), experienced most by blacks. And I’m not a suburban or rural guy freaking out about statistics from Chicago or NYC – I live inside a majority black city and don’t go a week without seeing a story about a child struck by a stray bullet from a gunfight or a party that gets sprayed by gunfire because of a feud with an attender. As a result, blacks now want to see police funding INCREASED (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/10/26/growing-share-of-americans-say-they-want-more-spending-on-police-in-their-area/), while your talking points are stuck in May of 2020.

    And then obsessing over 19th and 18th century mistreatment of Native Americans – come on man, that is old history. Right now the reservations are being devastated by alcohol, drugs, and rape, not the ghost of Andrew Jackson.

    Is it too much to ask for Christian thought leaders who not only want to seek justice but actually understand what the facts are on the ground?

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    1. That Pew poll shows that white people, those over 50, and those that lean republican want increases in police spending. But on the whole no category except over 50 and lean Republican have a majority that think that police funding should be increased.

      What facts on the ground are you pointing to here. Yes crime is a concern. Yes gun violence is a concern. But the people who are asking for more police are also most likely to be against gun restrictions.

      And the historical context for crime is important. I went to the dentist a while back and my hygienist was talking about how she didn’t feel safe going to the park any longer because there was a shooting in the park. It was the first time someone had been killed in a park in 30 years in Atlanta.

      The homicide rate per captia in the mid-1970s was 10.5 per 100K. The 1991 homicide rate was 9.71 homicides per 100k people in the US. 2018 was 4.9. There was a spike in 2020 but to 7.8. That is a sharp increase but way below the homicide rate of the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s when the homicide rate averaged between 9 and 10 per 100K.

      Talking clearly about root causes is actually important to understanding how to not have unintended consequences that make things worse.

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      1. I could’ve phrased it more clearly – a plurality of blacks want police funding increased, with the next most common answer being to keep funding the same. Only a quarter want to see police funding decreased, but meanwhile, white commentators still seem to think that American blacks are anti-police.

        I’m not sure about the point of your dentist anecdote. By the FBI’s reporting, 2020 saw a 30% increase over 2019 in murders/intentional homicides. https://crime-data-explorer.app.cloud.gov/pages/explorer/crime/shr
        57% of the victims were black, despite blacks making up only 15% of the US population. By all numbers I’ve seen, 2021 is on track to be as bad or worse as 2020. It’s a thoroughly counterproductive formulation of social justice which thinks deterring the very small number of unjustified police killings is worth thousands of additional black deaths at the hands of non-police guns. That’s why I’m giving Jake Meador some pushback.

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        1. I think there are a couple things worth pointing out here.

          Yes many Black and other minorities are not in favor of defunding police. But there is a signficant different from Black communities approach to police and many white communities approach to the police. The black church is strongly involved in antiviolence intitiatives, but in many cases antiviolence intiatives are pitted against police reform initatives as if both cannot be worked on at the same time.

          Yes there is a disproportionate rate of homicide victims that are black. There is also a disproportionate number of police victims that are black. Young black men’s third leading cause of death is homicide. The number six leading cause of death for young black men is police.

          My point about the dentist is that many are afraid of crime in ways that have no basis in reality and that often makes for really bad policy. One person being killed in a park in a 30 year period does not mean that parks are inherently unsafe. But this woman literally told me that she was going stop going to the park to exercise and instead go back into a gym because she was afraid of violence. She said she didn’t like working out in the gym because no one wore masks and she was concerned about covid, but she thought that the gym was safer than the park. The park that she went to regularly to exercise was 20 miles away from the one that had a single homicide.

          You keep pointing out the increase in homicides, but completely ignored the fact that contexutally homicides are still, even at their higher rates, way below where they have been for most of the last 50 years.

          This is fear based rhetoric.

          In addition, if you look at spikes of violence in Chicago and many other places, you can see that tehy go back to reduction or elimination of violence prevention programs that were often slowed or eliminated around 2015 by a number of republican govenors or city leaders.

          If we expand gun access, reduce violence prevention, expand police, refuse to address very real complaints against police misconduct (often only a small percentage of police have many if not most of all complaints), we can’t really be suprised about small increases of homicde. There are a number of studies about the limitations of expanding police numbers. Just adding police does not increase trust of police or increase closure rates of homicide cases or make communities safer.

          I am not unfamiliar gun violence. Part of my job is to track deaths of former students in the after school pogram in Chicago. There have been three shooting deaths of former student since August, 23 over the past five years. Violence is real and important. But the current concern by older, white, republican leaning voters is not primarily about violence that impacts them but about a rhetoric of fear that should not be stoked by Christians.

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          1. Your reaction evidences a concern for ideology more than actual lives. The homicide rate isn’t as bad as it was during the crack epidemic? Whoop de doo. We made a great degree of progress in reducing homicide since its peak around 1990, and in just two years misguided, misinformed attacks on policing from BLM and its allies have undone all of that. Question the motives of “old white Republicans” all you want – I’m not one of them, and don’t really care. The ones who are dying because of depolicing, prosecutorial inaction, and the other demented ideas of the left are my black neighbors and people like them.

            None of this is “fear-based rhetoric”, it’s reality-based rhetoric. It’s indefensible to place less value on the thousands of innocent lives lost to reckless or intentional non-police shootings than the few hundreds killed in ambiguous encounters with police (and many, but not all, “young black man killed by police” situations are completely defensible, see the research of Glenn Loury).

        2. Surely it’s possible to maintain police funding and simultaneously work towards eliminating systemic anti-Black bias in the way that much American policing is conducted. Communities that are predominantly Black may want increased policing, but they probably don’t want that policing carried out by the likes of Derek Chauvin.

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          1. I do think police need better training, and there needs to be reform of the union systems that give too much protection to bad actors. My point is that the supposed scourge of police brutality pales in comparison to the massive increase in non-police violence, and if generally good and insightful folks like Jake Meador can’t recognize what’s going on in our society, they shouldn’t be taking on the mantle of social commentators.

          2. Whataboutism.

    2. Why are reservations facing those issues today? When did the boarding school era end? I’m not down with the capital CPT.

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      1. If you have something to contribute beyond vague questions, I’ll be happy to read it.

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    3. Please speak more common sense, CPT. It was primarily minority businesses that got burned down and stolen from, too. The leftist identitarians are also the ones who despise school choice, which primarily benefits urban minorities. Arbitrary authoritarian minimum wage laws make no sense, are proven failures by the facts/statistics, and primarily lead to minority unemployment. Reduced education standards and the lie that studying is “acting white” also limits employment or income, and therefore and ability to secure loans for home ownership. Illiteracy — linguistically or financially — could possibly be considered “systemic racism.” What is The Church doing about that? The list of facts — and common sense — is a mile long. I could go on. More black babies are aborted in one year than in several decades of lynchings (2011: 360,000 abortions of blacks; 1882-1968: 4,743 lynchings).

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      1. This is classic whataboutism. Yes, the issues you raise are all problems that Blacks in America face. But that doesn’t negate the fact that Blacks in America also struggle against certain forms of systemic bias. By trying to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, you’re merely guaranteeing that progressive solutions will have a better chance of succeeding as potential solutions to the problem. That’s because people who deny the existence of a problem don’t get invited to the table to proffer solutions.

        By denying the existence of systemic racism, the far right is staking out ground that you cannot hold. That’s because systemic racism clearly exists. It’s not nearly as pervasive as progressives suggest. But is surely exists. Denying that is like denying that the sun will rise tomorrow.

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  4. Every time I read an article like this one, it just reads as “we must accept the hard path of martyrdom that comes with writing a bunch of jargon-laden statements on diversity, equity and inclusion that are functionally identical to the ones that are mandatory for anyone applying to a tenure-track position at a U of California school”.

    I think if there were some kind of substantive program of radicalism (“Let’s pool all our wealth and start a commune and then invite ethnic minorities to live there with us and serve them in a spirit of humble charity for the rest of our lives!”) then I’d be able to start to wrap my mind around the apparent paradox. There’d be a separate program to evaluate, and it would feel radical in its cost. But the idea of simply pivoting to a bunch of gatekeeping rhetoric about the ubiquity of systemic racism, rhetoric that scarcely existed before 2010 — at *exactly* the moment when it’s sweeping into a role as the default brand-evangelism lexicon of Wall Street, academia, and the military, mind you — is never going to feel counter-cultural and radical.

    I have substantial reservations about the crypto-authoritarianism of Catholic integralists, and thought leaders replacing Trump with Viktor Orban leaves me similarly cold. In that sense, I feel a much greater kinship with the guns-n’-trucks deplorables in my low-church evangelical West Texas world, who at least seem suspicious of government and authority and will wrap Trumpist sentiment (however imperfectly) in a weirdly libertarian idealism. But adopting the identitarian ideologies of the ruling regime (e.g. these incessant references to “whiteness” as an diffuse and amorphous malady) isn’t some kind of bold commitment to the path of the cross, and trying to market it as such is always going to look opportunistic.

    There are many good options for how to reconstitute evangelical identity, but all of them revolve around returning to older ways of being the church, not accommodating modern fads. We can invest in a new program of evangelism (per the 70s), or strengthen family formation (per the 80s), or find more ways to pursue common life (after the Bruderhof), or a deepening of systematic catechesis (along the Ben Op outline). And I’d say some of those paths (family formation!) would, if successfully implemented, would actually do more to address systemic racial injustice than training people to drop references to the perfidy of “institutional whiteness” every other third sentence. But there’s not going to be a option where we all come together and agree that adopting carefully laundered bits of aggressively race-conscious and gender-egalitarian social policy while struggling to coax it to coexist with classical sexual ethics (alongside lots of apologies for “the past”), is going to be a unifying proposal for “conservative” evangelicalism. That’s a proposal capped at a constituency amounting to half-dozen guys on Twitter sharing the same bloc of 3000 followers.

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    1. The older ways of being the church are often just yesterday’s fads. In that sense, I think it’s impossible that the church will ever rise too far beyond the limited life experiences of those who comprise it. But there’s always a need to reflect on what those limitations are and ensure that we take our subcultural idiosyncrasies a bit less seriously.

      Consider the CBMW theology, for example. You don’t have to read too much of it to see that it’s lifeless more than a lightly Christianized version of the social fads that prevailed from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s among middle-class white Americans. I can even accept that those social fads contain some measure of godly wisdom. But they are not the stuff of orthodoxy, and are certainly not necessitated by biblical mandate. In fact, by trying to pass of godly wisdom as necessary orthodoxy, we end up weakening the principles that underlie godly wisdom. By being a bit more conscious of our sociological situation, we can do a much better job of distinguishing between what’s required of the faith and wise practices that seem to work well within our social context. This also gives us the liberty to discuss the shortcomings of such practices without having to fear that Christian orthodoxy is at stake.

      Sure, some of the discussions about whiteness are a bit overwrought. Even so, I don’t see it as anything more than an invitation to reflect on the idiosyncratic practices of the subculture in which we move. The problem that I saw in evangelicalism was a tendency for people to want to find THE biblically right way of doing everything, and to believe that a good God ought to disclose that to them. Thus, many evangelicals struggled with social difference because any degree of social difference meant that someone had to be wrong (i.e., unbiblical) about something. This, in turn, led people to hunker down into sociologically homogeneous subcultures where social difference was minimal.

      I’m now a part of the ECUSA. I wish that it were more orthodox. But I don’t miss the “rule book” Christianity of the evangelical Reformed world, where every social difference was an occasion to judge someone as not following THE biblical way of doing things. It would have been better had people operated more with a vocabulary focused on the relative wisdom of certain practices.

      As I see it, the problem with evangelicalism isn’t its whiteness. Rather, the problem is the quest to find epistemic and ethical certainty on all manner of things that are only tenuously related to orthodoxy and that were hardly contemplated by the authors of a text whose most recent contributions were written nearly 2000 years ago. The whiteness comes as a consequence of people hunkering down into socially homogeneous church communities to give ourselves a false assurance of certainty concerning a variety of peripheral issues.

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      1. Do you not see any irony in lambasting evangelicals for being “sociologically homogenous” and then saying that’s why you joined the Episcopal Church? I have dear friends in the Episcopal Church, and love them, but it’s almost entirely made up of older, wealthy upper-class whites and progressive activists. Quite homogenous.

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        1. Yes, most Episcopalians are socially homogeneous. But they are aware of it, and they don’t try to pass off their subcultural idiosyncrasies and preferences as necessitated by Christian orthodoxy.

          My criticism of evangelicals wasn’t a criticism of social homogeneity. Social homogeneity is often inevitable in church settings. But evangelicals seem to be less conscious of their sociology. They don’t seem to be aware that many of their subcultural idiosyncrasies and preferences are merely that. In fact, evangelicals are often much more zealous in insulating these subcultural idiosyncrasies and preferences from criticism than they are in preserving orthodoxy. Jake gives the example of Owen Strachan, who rejects Nicene orthodoxy because doing so makes it easier to pass off “complementarianism” as biblically mandated rather than what it is—an idiosyncratic social preference concocted by people who watched a few too many John Wayne movies when they were young.

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          1. You certainly make some fair points about evangelicals misconstruing cultural/social practices as being Biblically required. We’ve seen that in some of the gender wars, as you mention, as well as the craze for “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”.

            I’d say the left wing of the Episcopal Church also considers its political/ecclesial preferences to be morally required. They don’t think the Bible is binding, but their personal moral preferences certainly are expressed in extremely intense ways.

          2. I’ve not experienced anything of the sort. In fact, it’s kind of refreshing to spend the post-worship social hour talking about things like pipe tobacco, shotguns, and cognac. I rarely feel like I have to *perform* when I’m at church, which is a refreshing change from my years in the PCA. In my local parish, I’d guess that more than 80% of the members vote Republican. It’s pretty devoid of progressivism.

    2. Good stuff. I’m leaving comments so I can easily go back and read these valuable thought contributions.

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  5. Love it! Great stuff, Jake.

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  6. This trend among Christian “intellectuals” to adopt as much of the left’s rhetoric as possible in an attempt to distance themselves from the mainstream evangelical right is very concerning. It almost comes off as a knee-jerk reaction. I sympathize with your desire to separate yourself from that group, and Ahmari’s group for that matter, but running so far in the opposite direction accomplishes nothing. This view that race relations should be the chief concern of White Christians today isn’t any better than that of the neocons of yesterday who believed you must support the War on Terror to be a true Christian. Arguably it’s even worse given how poorly defined all of the terms surrounding the issue are, if they still have objective definitions at all anymore (at least Quixote knew which windmills he was tilting at; the same cannot be said for modern crusaders against racism). The notion that White Christians must atone for racist acts committed centuries ago is especially problematic. Not because they have fallen into irrelevancy, but because it is an attempt to bind men’s consciences with something outside of what is found in Scripture.
    Just remember 1)only God can bring about cosmic justice and 2)Scripture’s definition of justice is not the same as modern definitions of justice.

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    1. I don’t see where the author (or other like writers) is saying that race relations should be the chief concern of White Christians. But it should be *a* concern.

      Also, the language of critical theory doesn’t belong to the left. This is the language one uses when analyzing the ways in which social and economic institutions share human conduct. This language is as readily available to conservatives as it is to progressives. In most cases, those who object to “the language” do so because they’re afraid that the analysis will reveal that they receive unmerited benefits at the expense of others from certain institutions. By objecting to “the language,” they can insulate corrupt institutions from analysis and continue to reap unmerited benefits at others’ expense.

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      1. “In most cases, those who object to “the language” do so because they’re afraid that the analysis will reveal that they receive unmerited benefits at the expense of others from certain institutions. By objecting to “the language,” they can insulate corrupt institutions from analysis and continue to reap unmerited benefits at others’ expense.”

        Exactly! It’s like how many people of color reject the language of critical theory because they receive unmerited gains from the affirmative action policies and welfare programs of corrupt institutions at the expense of white Americans.

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        1. Another thing to note…. We do not have to look far for reasonable counter-narratives. Black conservative intellectuals tell a story that leads to an entirely different set of diagnoses and prescriptions. In that telling, political action to address black inequities took on a “white man’s burden” quality almost immediately following the civil rights movement. Many of Lyndon Johnson’s “great society” reforms were specifically targeted to reduce black inequities. But, as conservatives at the time had warned, such targeted welfare was bound to erode community and family bonds, and so it did. Indicators of family stability – which for black americans had remained strong through slavery, jim crow, etc – immediately plummeted, and those trends continued through the mid 90’s, around the time of Clinton’s welfare reforms. The social effects of fatherlessness are not hard to predict – drug use, violent crime, etc. – and such we find in the decades following the “war on poverty”. Racism, redlining, and similar sorts of dynamics certainly worked against such political action, but as the Asian example suggests, the effects of historic oppression and cultural marginalization are often little match against strong family stability.

          No doubt there are flaws to such a telling. But if (as I suspect, admittedly) that is a more accurate narrative, then an entirely different set of prescriptions emerges. Perhaps conservatives should continue to challenge faulty narratives that only further entrench feelings of alienation. Perhaps conservatives should continue to resist redistributive “justice”, which so often only further erodes family and community stability. Perhaps Christian conservatives should focus on being a loud, prophetic voice for the natural family, situated within human-scale communities, over and against the cries of bigotry and “whiteness” from the identitarian left.

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          1. Fortunately, we’re not forced to choose between just two narratives. I agree that a narrative that blames all racial disparity on white racism is an implausible narrative. But your narrative is equally implausible, as it glasses over racism as a factor altogether. The more plausible narrative is one that recognizes that anti-Black racism is a significant factor in racial disparity but is often not the only factor or even the most significant factor in explaining racial disparity.

          2. Excellent, Sam.

      2. well you’re certainly right that the problem is not simply the “language”. It starts with an analytical framework; the language is built around it to uphold and support it.

        And of course, as has been discussed ad nauseum, the entire framework is flawed. One only need to take a passing look at social indicators for Asian minorities in the US – life expectancy, median income, poverty rates, levels of education, family stability, rates of incarceration, rates of police use of force, and so on – and find that they outperform “whites” in nearly every category. Clearly a framework of “white supremacy” or “systemic racism” is insufficient in making sense of our racial disparities. The insistence of such a framework suggests that the unease in more with perceived cultural hegemony than with actual racial inequities.

        Taking on this framework and it’s accompanying language results in an over-diagnosis/misdiagnosis of our social ills. Hence polls repeatedly showing progressives vastly overestimating the number of black men killed by police. In fact, police shootings generally track with rates of violent crime; narrow that down to homicide and the stats even flip. 52% of homicides have a black perpetrator, 40% of homicides of police officers have a black perpetrator, 26% of police killings have a black victim. Its routinely noted that for every george floyd there’s a tony timpa, the salient difference being that our current operative framework results in about 19x the media coverage for the black victim.

        Misdiagnosis quite obviously leads to disastrous prescriptions. “Defund the police” and all the other various criminal justice reforms of late are obvious examples, and correspond to exponential increases in rates of homicide and petty crimes, trends that of course disproportionately impact minority communities.

        These articles generally remain noticeably absent of precise diagnoses or specific prescription. Rather, they speak in lots of unfalsifiable generalities about the “white” psyche, which allows one to signal acquiescence to the popular narrative without being sullied by its contradictions.

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        1. What is the analytical framework to which you’re referring? It seems as though your objection is to any analysis that examines the way in which institutions shape human conduct and affect social outcomes. That raises the obvious question as to whether you’re actually interested in remedying injustice.

          I have a number of reservations concerning progressive prescriptions for remedying injustice. That’s because I believe that other prescriptions may be more effective. But those who quibble about “the language” or “the analytical framework” are typically just saying that they’d prefer that injustice persist, probably because they see themselves as beneficiaries of that injustice. So, please spare us the artifice of disingenuous objections about language and frameworks.

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          1. No offence mate, but you really need to work on your reading comprehension before you start accusing others of being disingenuous. He clearly defined the framework and language he’s talking about and explained why they lead to a misdiagnosis of our current situation.

          2. Systemic racism isn’t a framework. It’s an observable fact. The framework to which the commenter appears to be objecting is the consideration of the social and economic role of institutional actors.

          3. Racial disparities in a system or systems can be “observed” and asserted as factual. “Systemic racism” functions as an interpretation of those disparities, loading onto that single variable both correlation and cause of the disparity, charging it with a sense of ubiquity and moral urgency that aren’t otherwise present in a mere “facts”.

            Consider again what it might look like to observe racial disparities between whites and asians, how asians outperform whites in nearly all social categories. Imagine your emotional reaction to the assertion that we’re plagued with “systemic racism” that privileges asians and disadvantages whites. And as such, given the reality of “systemic racism”, justice requires that we do *something* (such as perhaps enacting some sort of structural reforms in order to achieve more equitable outcomes). And further, because the disparities between white and asian are so factually observable, any talk of “analytical framework” is simply disingenuous evasion by those who prefer that injustice persist.

          4. You’re just arguing against straw men at this point. Whether an institution, in its functioning, tends to confer unmerited benefits onto whites at the expense of blacks is an observable fact. Nowhere did I suggest that the mere existence of racial disparities proves systemic racism. In fact, many racial disparities exist for reasons that have little to do with racism. But some do.

            It’s stupid to suggest that all instances of racial disparity are evidence of institutional bias. It’s equally stupid to suggest that institutional bias plays no role at all.

          5. “Systemic racism isn’t a framework. It’s an observable fact.”

            No it isn’t. The entire concept is just an attempt to pretend the black community isn’t at all responsible for it’s own problems. This in turn results in the problems getting worse because all effort is wasted on “fighting systemic racism in Mid-Western basket weaving conventions” or whatever nonsense is in fashion. Many black people admit this as well. It’s only suburbanite white liberals who reel at the notion while they “help” black people with empty gestures that accomplish nothing but make themselves feel better.

          6. You’re conflating the problem with particular solutions to the problem. If particular solutions aren’t helpful for addressing the problem, then the answer is to provide better solutions. The answer isn’t to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist.

            I agree that it’s implausible that racial disparities are entirely the result of white racism. But it’s equally implausible to suggest that white racism plays no role whatsoever.

    2. Very good, Jim. Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.

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  7. I will revise my critical comments about Dreher a bit. Today (11/18) Dreher has a post on his blog criticizing Deneen and Ahmari. For those who’ve read Dreher for a while, this isn’t altogether surprising. His writing is more of a snapshot of how he feels on a given day rather than the product of a consistent philosophy.

    Dreher makes two points worth considering here.

    First, guys like Deneen and Ahmari have no reasonable alternative to liberalism to proffer. They make apposite points concerning the costs of liberalism. But they can’t get past the fact that, for most of us, the benefits outweigh the costs. And they don’t have anything in mind that would preserve most of the benefits of liberalism while reducing the costs.

    Second, even if they could devise a political order that would be a suitable alternative, they face the challenges of selling that political order to a pluralistic country in which less than 10% of the population would agree with Ahmari and Deneen on the proper telos of humanity. So, coercion is their only option apart from mass conversion of the population to a form of Christianity that rejects everything from the past 1000 years.

    And all this over DQSH? This sort of thing is triggering to some set of older conservative Christians. Nearly everyone else is content to look the other way and move on with their lives. I live in an overwhelmingly liberal town. The bookstore on the main drag held DQSH a few years ago. A friend mentioned that the event garnered an audience of about five families. Opposing to DQSH is much ado about nothing. Few people are going to dispense with their own individual liberties to cede authority to a regime whose chief benefit is the elimination of an event that people can simply ignore at no cost to themselves.

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  8. […] “The End of the Liberalism Debate.” Jake Meador sorts through the various debates around post liberalism in recent years and concludes, “There is no time so dark, no sin so deep, that those who look to Christ cannot still expect resurrection. So our hope endures, not because we forge political alliances that will protect us, but because we worship a King who has conquered already. We follow him. And if we follow him truly, we follow him to a cross—and then an empty grave.” […]

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  9. On the one hand, the above article is potentially divisive to the Church. For if by Christian conservatives Meador means politically conservative Christians, then what about us religiously conservative Christians who are not politically conservative.

    We also have to confront Dreher’s fear that America was becoming hostile to the Christian faith and values. Being one who hangs out on the political left, I don’t see that hostility as a trend. What I do see is a hostility to religiously conservative Christians imposing their morals, especially sexual morals, and values on society. Resisting our control of others is not the same as being hostile to their values. Such resistance simply says let us live as we wish and you live as you wish.

    But here is the overall problem independent of Trump’s participation in American politics. Religiously conservative Christians have a penchant for authoritarianism. They seek hierarchy in society. And not only do they seek hierarchy, they seek privilege and a place of supremacy in controlling the lives of unbelievers. And thus, religiously conservative Christians lack a clear understanding of democracy as a state of being for society.

    What triggered Dreher’s The Benedict Option? Was it not the Obergefell decision by the Supreme Court? For what that decision did was to throw off some of the last, but also key, vestiges of Christian control over society. And we don’t need to unite around Trump to seek that kind of control.

    In a working democracy, we Christians need to know when and how to collaborate with and even learn from unbelievers in making decisions about society. A prerequisite to that is to be able to distinguish the standards of righteousness for belonging to and participating in society, what Machen called an involuntary organization, from a righteousness that is part of belonging to the Church, what Machen called a voluntary organization. And until we can make that distinction, our calls for righteousness in society will be understandably, if not rightly, understood as attempts to reinstate Christian privilege in and supremacy over society.

    One more point, at least Meador addresses the need to be more socially conscience of justices issues in addition to abortion. Meador did well to mention those other issues. Christian apathy to those other issues besides abortion has not only hurt our efforts to end the legalization of elective abortions, more importantly that apathy has hurt the reputation of the Gospel.

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    1. I’m a religiously orthodox Christian and am fairly libertarian politically. I ended up giving up on evangelicalism. The movement is more focused on political authoritarianism than on Christian orthodoxy. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions.

      I also agree that most Americans wouldn’t pay any attention to white evangelicals if they’d merely stop trying to use the power of the state to impose their sectarian views onto a pluralistic society. If white evangelicals merely minded their own business and respected the fundamental pluralism of our society, no one on the left would pay them any mind.

      But that won’t happen. White evangelicalism is more of a sociopolitical movement than a religious movement.

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      1. Ryo D,
        But why is white evangelicalism such a sociopolitical movement? That is an important question because, like it or not, white evangelicals are brothers and sisters in Christ. We just can’t write them off because of their fear-driven desire for control over society which is distasteful, if not embarrassing to us. We too have faults and sins.

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        1. I believe that I have brothers and sisters in Christ within the White Evangelical (WE) movement. But mere membership in that movement doesn’t necessarily make one a Christian. The overwhelming majority of those in the WE movement are people who desire a kind of herrenvolk democracy. They make vague reference to a civil form of Christianity. But that Christianity is no more orthodox than the Christianity of the KKK. I’d suggest that probably as many as 80% of those who identify as WEs are unconverted.

          The question that perplexed me was the question of why the orthodox minority insists on staying in the movement. In some cases, they stuck around because this orthodox minority still exercised a disproportionate degree of power in denominational and para-church organizations. But these kinds of institutions are becoming less and less relevant. Like it or not, Tucker Carlson has more influence over what WEs believe than the editors at Christianity Today.

          I also think that the Overton window is closing on founding anything new. The main audience for something new consists principally of educated professionals whose politics run along the lines of libertarianism or AEI-style conservatism. Such people began drifting out of the evangelical movement starting in the early 2010s. Some found other churches, but most just jettisoned church attendance altogether. They didn’t want to attend an unorthodox mainline church, and there was no orthodox option available that allowed one to avoid social contact with the FOX crowd.

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          1. A couple thoughts:

            1) Folks, if you’re making generalizations about race-specific groups – for example, that “white evangelicals” have a “fear-driven desire for control over society”, that they secretly want a “herrenvolk democracy” in which they “reinstate Christian privilege in and supremacy over society”, and with whom we may want to “avoid social contact with” – we have a term for that. We call that R-A-C-I-S-M.

            2) What I gather from these comments is that ending the mass homicide of the unborn, the renewal and preservation the natural family, the protection of children against premature sexualization, contending against a re-racialization of society, and other such social priorities of concern for conservative Christians…. that these are NOT “justice” issues. But unspecified notions of “institutional bias” or “systemic racism” ARE “justice” issues.

            To attend to the former, I gather, is to be authoritarian, to “use to power of the state” to “impose values”. But to attend to the latter, so it seems, would be a perfectly reasonable imposition via state power. Am I getting this right?

            All of this seems to bolster my original point. The progressive left would be pleased with a Christian public witness that is ever more self-denigrating and politically passive; apparently in this they now find at Mere Orthodoxy a common cause.

          2. In response to Sam, it is not racism to observe and speak in generalities about a subgroup of whites who have a fear-driven need to control. If I had said that about all whites, then that would be racism.

            Rather, I am speaking specifically about those white evangelicals who want the nation to become or return to a Christian ethnocracy–part of the authoritarianism you inquired about. And their behavior and words identify who they are as it did in the past. In addition, I identified them as brothers and sisters in Christ whom we can neither shun nor disassociate ourselves from.

            We are making different observations here. The moment that Meador references Dreher’s The Benedict Option, he identified the key concerns of the movement because he pointed out the turning point in which Dreher called for that option: The Obergefell decision. Many Evangelical leaders associated that decision with the moment they lost the culture war. But why fight a culture war in the first place? Why not strive for cultural coexistence?

            And as far as seeking justice, what we see are multiple groups auditioning for the role of the Pharisee from the parable of the two men praying (Luke 18:9-14). One side wants to protect the unborn, children who are being sexualized, and traditional marriage. The other group wants to protect the LGBT community which is in the midst of emerging from marginalization. It also wants to eliminate the remains of systemic racism in this nation, to respond to the challenges of Climate Change, and wants to reverse the growing economic classism in this nation. Each side is looking down on the other side for not doing what they are doing–for being different.

            As for authoritarianism, what is being referred to is what was referred to at the beginning of this comment. But it also includes the authoritarian personality types. The authoritarian personality types control the kind of appeal for support and reaction we have to dissent. The authoritarian approach to how we discuss issues in the public square stands in sharp contrast to the rational approach. While with the former approach truth is determined by the ideological credentials of the source, truth is determined by facts and logic in the latter approach.

            Considering how we religiously conservative Christians have been taught to submit to so many authority structures in our lives, it is natural that we have great difficulty in relating to the general public as equals and outside of a given hierarchy.

          3. Opposing white supremacy doesn’t make one a racist.

            As for th other issues you mention, I’d prefer that the government stay out of people’s private lives. If you oppose drag queen story hour, don’t attend. There’s no need to establish an authoritarian government to prevent such events from happening.

            Lastly, the racial justice movement doesn’t seek to re-racialize society. Rather, it seeks to uncover racial bias that is inherent in certain social institutions. Unless you’re a racist, there is no need to oppose such efforts.

          4. “white evangelicals who want the nation to become or return to a Christian ethnocracy” … “who have a fear-driven need to control”

            This is actually deranged.

          5. Sam,

            I don’t think Curt’s conclusion her is too deranged at all. During my years in the PCA, there were significant undercurrents of this kind of thinking. In my experience, a significant number of white evangelicals are triggered and fearful of genuine pluralism. I left the movement before Trump came to power. But this kind of thinking is significantly more prevalent and open after Trump.

          6. The actual truth: there is no one in “white evangelicalism” – and I do mean no one – who is advocating for “ethnocracy”, “herrenvolk democracy”, white racial superiority, or any other melodramatic terms of the sort.

            This is classic ethnic scapegoating, and you all need to stop.

          7. Sam,
            I don’t think that the fear-driven desire to control can be understandably wrong. It seems to be a very human trait to fear those who are different. Whether it is deranged depends on the degree of control sought.

          8. Sam,

            You’re right that no one is directly advocating for those things. But when you look at the policies that white evangelicals are advocating, the policies that are entirely consistent with ethnio-nationalism, herrenvolk democracy, etc.

          9. Sam,
            Since most people do not understand what an ethnocracy is compared to a democracy, I find your comment to need revision.

            Those white evangelicals who want Christianity to have a place of supremacy, which does not imply a theocracy, in directing the laws of the nation are promoting the idea of a Christian Ethnocracy. Though Trump wasn’t a Christian, many evangelicals supported him as a way of taking their country back. That sentiment itself advocates for an ethnocracy.

          10. Curt,

            I concur with most of your observations, except for your suggestion that the ethnocrats are Christians. Such views run so counter to the Gospel that I have difficulty seeing such people as anything besides unconverted pagans.

            On the fear point, I agree. What’s interesting, though, is the extent to which the fear rests on a kind of zero-sum hypothesis. Throughout the SSM debates, I asked these sorts of people to explain how their own lives are materially affected by whether the lesbian couple down the street can claim the legal benefits attendant to civil marriage laws. I never received a credible answer. The whole opposition to SSM rested on the assumption that, if the gays obtain some legal benefit, that benefit must be coming at the expense of straight people. But that kind of logic doesn’t hold. Societies that extend the blessings of liberty broadly tend to generate more wealth per capita. Liberty creates more for all of us.

            Interestingly enough, this is something that conservatives used to believe. One of Margaret Thatcher’s final speeches on the floor of Parlaiment was a criticism of the socialist left’s zero-sum thinking. As Thatcher noted, the socialists would rather that the poor remain poor, so long as it meant that the rich remained less rich. In this case, the ethnocrats would rather have less if it means that certain out-groups have even less. This is the road to serfdom under another name.

  10. […] The End of the Liberalism Debate Published November 21, 2021By donndayCategorized as Culture, Religion […]

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  11. Stop idealizing blacks. Slavery and Jim Crow didn’t make Deshawn rob the liquor store. Blacks get shot by police out of proportion to their numbers because they are out committing violent crimes way out of proportion. These middle class whites that want to blame whites rarely actually know any underclass blacks and they are quick to make sure they don’t send their kids to black schools and they don’t live in black neighborhoods.

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    1. Steve,
      No one is idealizing Blacks. But some are having great difficulty in understanding the full effects of previous and present systemic racism. Those effects can be both significant as they are varied. And there is a double standard employed here. That is pointed out by asking what caused the Boston Tea Party? Was it only the actions of the British government, or was it solely the choice of those who took part in the action?

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  12. The Episcopalian and Lutheran bishops in Georgia released a presser praising the conviction of the three racist thugs who hunted down and killed Ahmaud Arbery. Meanwhile the PCA (which is headquartered in Atlanta) and and SBC have remained silent. We can only interpret such silence as disapproval.

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