Moar Willpower

Two things I think are related:

1) For reasons I don’t entirely understand, it has become normal in certain parts of the Christian subculture to join the secularist crusade against any concrete application of the biblical exhortations to modesty. Suggesting that bikinis or skin-tight yoga pants are not proper public attire has been castigated as legalistic and “abusive.” It isn’t a woman’s responsibility if a man lusts as a result of seeing her curves or other anatomy. (One extreme anti-modesty zealot asserted that a Christian man ought to be able to stand in front of a string-bikini-clad woman and not think a thing except something like “this could be my daughter.”)

These anti-modesty activists wholly discount the psycho-physiological realities of male sexuality. They view people, men particularly, in this case, as brains on sticks.: detached, sovereign wills that have unlimited power to act. The only factor in what a person thinks, says, or does is what they choose. External stimuli either have no effect, or can be completely conquered if only a man chooses it.

2) More understandable to me is the increasing (or so it seems to me) interest in libertarianism. Or, at least, a popular expression of libertarianism that I’ll call market fundamentalism. For the market fundamentalist, the answer to every social and economic problem is to deregulate something. Are monopolies dominating markets and undercutting mom-and-pops? Deregulate them. Are peddlers of smut delivering their wares to ever-younger victims? Deregulate them. Are corporations polluting the commons? Deregulate them. All these problems are somehow solely the fault of the government.

The market fundamentalist cannot conceive that the market might reward or encourage evil behavior, or if it does, that a person might not be able to resist those enticements. No, if we see problems in our society and economy, then those suffering under those problems are to blame. Their only recourse is to muster up their willpower and make a better decision.

Both of these errors, along LGBTism and transhumanism, share the same wrong-headed view of man; they all have a false anthropology. They see man as unlimited will. The only thing that matters is what he chooses, and he can choose whatever he will. There is no consideration of his limits. He is not embodied. He’s completely self-made.

We need to shore up our understanding of nature, custom, and human limits.

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Exit Benedict

I reproduce publicly something I wrote in a private group about the outlook for Western Christians. Even if the stuff about liberal sexuality were not true, I think points 9-14 would still hold. The LGBT crusade is just helpful in making the necessity of this rather obvious to anyone paying attention. (Read Rod Dreher’s book.)

Here’s a rough outline of my thinking on this:

1) Christians are a minority in Western culture now.  We do not hold cultural or political power.

2) The liberal sexual paradigm is ascendant and dominant, culturally, politically, and religiously.

3) The liberal sexual paradigm is opposite to and irreconcilable with the Christian sexual paradigm.

4) The liberal sexual paradigm does not allow for dissent. Normalization and celebration of deviancy is being/will be compelled.
5) The educational establishment is pushing the liberal sexual paradigm, including transgenderism, at all levels of education, requiring both students and faculty to assent to it.

6) The corporate world (finance, administration, media, law, retail, etc) is fully on board with the same. HR departments routinely push for ‘diversity training’ and public expressions of ‘allyship.’

7) Christians are already being terminated from these jobs in small numbers.

8) All indicators say those numbers will increase.

9) This means large numbers of Christians in those fields will need some sort of livelihood and a place to educate their children.

10) Those will only be possible in a thick community of like-minded, serious, orthodox Christians living in close physical proximity to one another and serving one another and their wider community in interlocking vocations.

11) Such a community cannot be built over night, so waiting until one is fired to begin building it means you’ve waited too late.

12) LGBT woes are the occasion for our strategic withdrawal, but they are only a recent symptom of a deeper, older problem that the Church has failed to address.

13) Failure to form these thick communities will mean widespread apostasy, isolation (ironically) of individual Christians, and irrelevance of the Church.

14) It is only from these thick communities that we can hope to be a compelling witness for Christ and His kingdom.

Whither Conservatives?

It’s worth noting that virtually anybody who could be called ‘conservative’ in the 19th and early 20th centuries was alarmed by the shift to an industrial society from an agrarian one. Our seers consulted the stars and were able to discern many of the deferred costs we’d have to pay for our newfound material comfort and ‘progress.’ They saw, with a clarity that amazes me, the social, political, religious, and economic goods that we’d eventually be forced to relinquish. Fatherlessness, wage slavery, loss of inherited liberty, sexual deviancy, breakdown of kinship relations, rootlessness, ennui, and more besides were all foretold. And while I don’t think industrialism is the sole cause of any of those, it is difficult to overstate the role it has had in producing them.

John Crowe Ransom states well the old conservative sentiment: “Industrialism is rightfully a menial, of almost mircaulous cunning but no intelligence; it needs to be strongly governed or it will destroy the economy of the household. Only a community of tough conservative habit can master it.” The fact that modern Americans, whether self-professed conservatives or no, will scratch their heads at talk of ‘the economy of the household’ is enough to show that we did not have a sufficiently conservative habit. Since Ransom’s day, we’ve more or less capitulated to the industrial mindset, left, right, and center.

And so modern political and social (even religious) discourse consists of talk among various wings of the industrial party. Ironically, our ‘conservatives’ are some of the most ardent defenders of the industrial gospel. (Which makes me wonder what exactly they mean to be conserving.) They have made an about-face. ‘Conservative’ is more or less synonymous with Republican, and everybody knows Republican politicians will back Big Business to the hilt, family, religion, and tradition be damned. The average conservative is somewhat better than the politicians, of course, but even there you won’t find a very robust esteem for the past. You can occasionally arouse a fighting spirit that will take on corporations, like what we’ve seen with the NFL and Nike. But that’s a fickle spirit and not to be relied upon.

So where does a young conservative go? What does he do with his energy? If he wants a settled household nestled within a community that is committed to a particular place, that is largely independent politically and economically, and a church that proclaims the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, to whom does he turn? Who are his brothers-in-arms? Neither major party represents him. Ostensible ‘lay’ conservatives often are committed to fortifying the very forces that are undermining that vision of the good life.

That’s basically me. And as angsty as that sounds, I’m more hopeful than anxious. But boy do we need good conservative voices to interpret the times AND provide practical advice for living, which we haven’t had in a long time. May the Lord raise them up for us.

Althusius on the Clan

It struck me as a I read Chapter Three in Althusius’ Politca that I’ve never seen an explicit teaching on the extended family. When a society is as mobile as ours is, you end up functionally without a family. The result of this is to replace the natural support system with a civil support system; I’m not convinced that has worked out well. An upshot of what Althusius is saying here is that we have a duty to stay close to our family geographically, unless extraordinary circumstances arise.

The kinship association is one in which relatives and in-laws are united for the purpose of communicating advantages and responsibilities.

This association arises from at least three persons, but it can be conserved by fewer. Frequently it consists of a much larger number.

He is called the leader (princeps) of the family or of any clan of people, who is placed over such a family or clan, and who has the right to coerce (jus coercendi) the persons of his family individually and collectively.

The rights communicated among the persons who are united in this natural association are called rights of blood (jura sanguinis). They consist partly in advantages, partly in responsibilities, and in the bringing together and sustaining these advantages mutually among the kinsmen.

Such advantages are, first, the affection, love, and goodwill of the blood relative and kinsman.

From this affection arises the solicitude by which the individual
is concerned for the welfare and advantages of his kinsman, and
labors for them no less than for his own.

Second among the advantages of the family and kinsmen I refer
to the communion in all the rights and privileges belonging to the
family and relationship. And to this point I refer the enjoyment of the clan or family
name, and of its insignia.

Third among the common rights of the family and relationship I refer to the provision for support in case of necessity or want.

Fourth, a privilege granted to one of the kinsmen is extended by right of relationship to his family, wife, children, and even brother.

The responsibilities of the family and relationship are services and works that the member owes to his kinsman, such as forethought, care, and defense of the family and of the members of the household.

The leadership in meeting these responsibilities rests upon the paterfamilias as master and head of his family.

Upon the older members of the family rests the duty of correcting and reprehending their younger kinsmen for mistakes of youthful indiscretion and hotheadedness.

These advantages and responsibilities are intensified as the degree of relationship among the kinsmen increases. Therefore they are greater between parents and children. For parents should educate their children, instruct them in the true knowledge of God, govern and defend them, even lay up treasures for them, make them participants in everything they themselves have, including their family and station in life, provide suitable marriages for them at the right time, and upon departing born life make them their heirs and provide optimally for them.