A few days ago, Stephen Wolfe tweeted something that garnered no little attention. The offending tweet can be seen off to the right there—“White evangelicals are the lone bulwark against moral insanity in America.” Some, like Allie Beth Stuckey, took it as a simple demographic observation. I read it and moved on, taking it the same way, and probably went to lunch.
The problem was that the official Twitter Voices did not take it that way, and the whole thing went up in a white sheet of flame. One observer noted the troublesome color of that sheet of flame, but we can pass by that for now. Others were yelling for yelling’s sake, having seen a golden opportunity present itself—why let a good gaffe go to waste?—while conservative friends were scratching their heads, wondering why Stephen had wanted to bring the color of the evangelicals into the mix.
But wait. Things get more complicated. Canon Press, publisher of Stephen’s book The Case for Christian Nationalism, reached out to Stephen with their concerns. After that, they tweeted a picture of David French and Russell Moore with the caption “Stephen’s hope for Western Civ.” Get it? Two white leaders of the alleged lone bulwark who are known to have worldview spines of stracotto pasta, lacking al dente qualities entirely. Well, many folks didn’t get it, and Canon followed up with a simpler tweet: “To be clear, this is dumb.”
And the festivities only grew from there. A bunch of genuine racist trolls came out of the woodwork to dance with drums and tambourines in order to celebrate what they thought Stephen was up to, wittily dubbing Canon Press Cohen Press (get it?) and calling the proprietor of this blog a race traitor along with other deft touches of high intellect. But as far as the Cohen thing goes, I keep coming back to the fact that Woodrow Wilson, who pretty much wrecked everything, was not a Jew.
In the middle of such gaudy proceedings, remember that we also need to budget for the inevitable arrival of some Ray Epps-type, one who is urging us all to go ahead and embrace some suicidal move. So if you are that guy out there trying to recruit enough people for an online idiot-cluster, now would be a good time to pipe down.
Other folks, not woke storm troopers, but soft and hard critics of Christian Nationalism in general, quietly (or loudly) nodded their approval over Canon Press having finally reached its reactionary limit. “Even they called Wolfe dumb.” (Which they didn’t.) And others, not trolls or anything, wondered whether Wilson and Moscow were going wobbly and caving to the woke police. They wondered if we were joining the ranks of those believers who yelp on command.
Which, for anyone who knows us, is as likely as Christ Church requiring masks and vax cards at worship.
All in all, it was as though the neighborhood cats, running a bad fever, decided to frolic in dear Grandmother’s yarn closet, and it has now fallen to my lot to try and untangle things a bit. It’s my turn, after all. Nancy sorted it all last time.
Here a Point, There a Point, Everywhere a Point-Point
What’s a reasonable guy like me to do? On the one hand, I agreed with Canon’s tweet that the original tweet was dumb, but there are all kinds of ways to be dumb. It would be dumb, for example, to reveal to the world that you really are a racist, sure enough. But it would also be dumb to give those who are just itching to slander you as a racist a plausible excuse for doing so. Why embroider a “kick me” sign on the back of your jacket? So, I do agree that the tweet was dumb. Why say something that could be wildly misconstrued so readily?
On the other hand, life is complicated, and Canon’s response has been wildly misconstrued also. Some (woke and racist and even in between) wanted to see it as Canon’s agreement with the white sheet of flame people, or as a public acknowledgement by Canon that we regret publishing Stephen’s book, which we don’t.
So, in what ways was the original tweet not dumb?
Election night analysts talk this way all the time. There is such a thing as recognizable voting blocks—blacks, Hispanics, and so on. As it happens, “white evangelicals” is a standard recognizable group, and their support for Republican presidential candidates runs in the 75-80% range. For example, just 16% of white evangelicals voted for Hillary. Everybody knows that the pollster category of “white evangelical” is the backbone of the Republican party. And just as blacks deserting the Democrats would mean the end of that party, so also the desertion of Republicans by white evangelicals would mean the end of that party. I don’t know of any other constituency that could have this kind of impact. That is what I took Stephen’s reference to “lone bulwark” to mean, and why I enjoyed my lunch without giving it a second thought. Stephen’s follow-up tweets confirmed my read. But, the phrase “lone bulwark” does have an honorific tone, and he did pair it with some nostalgic Rockwell, noble-salt-of-the-earth iconography. Therein the swing. Therein the miss.
And this is why Canon’s picture of French and Moore was simultaneously on point but, taken another way, also beside the intended point. Stephen wasn’t talking about them, as they are not in political sync with the majority of the “white evangelical” herd. But despite being so out of step with rank-and-file evangelicals, who haven’t had enough graduate credits to be so foolish, people like French and Moore nevertheless remain established as public representatives and spokesmen for evangelicalism—like it or not. Who let that happen? Who lets them continue to do that?
So, in one sense, the voting block sense, white evangelicals are a significant player. One could defend the “lone bulwark” comparison, if two friends were having an emotionally neutral discussion about demographics over a couple of non-alcoholic beers. But we are not having a sensible discussion. One way I can tell is because of all the yelling. In another sense, white evangelicals have been a big part of the problem, as can be seen in the discrepancy between the outlook of our leadership and the outlook of our troops, and by the way in which they still prop up so much of the old, Marxist infrastructure (government schools, anyone?).
One final thought cribbed from Chesterton. When people call you too fat and also too thin, when they call you too tall and too short, you know you’re where you should be. I’ve been called a racist by lefties since the olden times, back when many of you weren’t born and some of you were on Big Wheels. Please . . . call me a race traitor in my other ear. It’s reassuring. If I’m not being slandered by both sides, I might think I’m in the wrong spot.
And, by God’s grace and thanks to men like Schaeffer and Lewis, I saw this moment coming from a long way off and started building in the parallel economy before that phrase existed. Thanks to God’s blessing on that work, and despite our many failures, hundreds of thousands and even millions of students have been and are being trained up to think rigorously and logically, adhering to God’s truth in a world gone mad. Canon has been a huge part of that labor, pumping materials and curricula and now video content out around the world and creating a place where books like The Case for Christian Nationalism can exist without being canceled, along with the surrounding sane and fruitful discussion. We will, as we have for a very long time now, continue to fight and build in the culture wars. And in the conversations surrounding this build of ours, there is no place for CRT or the wokeries of the left, and there is no place for racism (the real stuff, not the inflated insults) or racial vainglory. None of that will ever get a microphone at our table. More on that subject in the months ahead.
So, what is Canon’s role in all of this? As Outfitters of the Reformation, we are trying to do what we can to build a very real bulwark up, all across this nation, and all around the world. And while most of us are white, and we’d be honored to hold bulwark status, our postmillennial gospel mission will be a failure if it’s never more than pale.