It is a custom among our people to make resolutions for the new year, and as this is the morning of January 1, 2024, a brand spanking new year, and one that promises to be every bit as gnarly as the last several, I thought I should offer a set of suggested resolutions for all conservative Christians. I am speaking of those who are engaged in what have come to be known as the culture wars.
That engagement might be at some distance, where you are simply praying for your nation and working hard to maintain the perimeter of your sanity bubble—for your family or local congregation. This is an effort not to be sneered at. It is one of the most important things that can be done. It must be done, and it must be done by millions. Or perhaps you might be in the thick of the fray, where the bad guys know all about you, and are trying to take you out. You might, for example, be an evangelical lobbyist in Washington, where your job is to nod while Republicans lie to you.
So what should you resolve to do? How shall we then behave? Except for the last resolution below, these come in no particular order.
#1 The Color of Your Pills
Resolved: that you will have nothing whatever to do pills that are the wrong color.
Stay far away from every kind of black pill because nobody around here needs any kind of Nietzschean despair, especially from sophomores. Stop acting like we are the first civilization to come apart in tatters. We don’t know which French phrase applies—fin-de-siècle or après moi, le déluge—but something like that does. We are currently living on the top of a tell, and underneath our feet there are layers of empires. Human history is a lot bigger than the current hot shots who think they are in control of everything. You might be thinking that if this keeps up, we are all going to die. But remember that we were all going to die anyhow. Yes, the slaves who carved the statue for Ozymandias are all dead. But so is Ozymandias. God is in control, and what actually matters is that we honor Him, obey His gospel, and stay out our post.
Avoid white pills also, for that matter—but only those that are not rooted in sound exegesis of Psalm 2. A Whig-view-of-history white pill is the wrong kind of pill. If it is going to be a white pill, it needs to be more of a He-shall-have-dominion white pill. All the Pollyanna pills promise to be “fast-acting,” and the postmill pill is a time-release sort of thing, encompassing centuries. Only take the white pills that do not guarantee any visible change within your lifetime.
It is okay to be red-pilled for a little bit, but remember that it is only a metaphor and metaphors can be overdone. Details can be found in subsequent resolutions, outlined below.
The one pill to be absolutely avoided is the blue one, the stay-the-course pill, the everything-is-normal-despite-appearances pill. This is the pill that makes you believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Biden is not a sock puppet, and that we are living through another ordinary administration. Remember that in an honest election, every man with a pair of testicles will be voting against Biden. Also remember that every woman with a pair will be voting for him. So consider wisely.
#2 Don’t Be the Wrong Kind of Meme Lord
Resolved: that you will use memes in order to express your worldview, and not use them as a means of forming your worldview.
Memes really are powerful. They can be used as a devastating weapon. They are also powerful enough that some people try to build a ramshackle worldview out of them. But as just stated, they should be used to express your worldview, and not be used as the basis for forming your worldview. If you do the latter, then your worldview is nothing more than a cobbled-together set of talking points. And when all you have is talking points, you come off like an animated teleprompter.
An awful lot of truth can be packed into a tweet, or expressed by a meme. Those who argue against such “sound byte” wisdom have a beef with the book of Proverbs. A lot can be contained within a short compass, and I believe that you can sometimes find more wisdom on one bumper sticker than you can in ten sermons, depending on the preacher.
But precisely because of that, and because the wisdom there is “sticky,” and easy to repeat, there is a temptation to neglect the hard preparatory work of, say, actually reading a book. When the plant is rooted in good soil, it will bloom memes. But there are also some conservatives who are cut-flower meme lords.
#3 Recognize Your Joabs and Abners
Resolved: that you will budget for the fact that our side of the conflict has some rotters on it and that the other side has some decent sorts.
If you go through the conflict of our time with a simplistic white hats/black hats approach, you are sure to find yourself in situations that flummox you. Joab was on David’s side, and Abner was not. King Ahab was one of the worst monarchs that Israel ever had, and Obadiah was one of his courtiers—and he was a righteous man. Daniel was the chancellor of the University of Babylon, and they had a witchcraft department. “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Even the Nazis had their Schindlers.
So the line between good and evil is not a party line. When David pursued the Amalekites after the sack of Ziklag, and he defeated them, his returning victorious band contained wicked men, men of Belial (1 Sam. 30:22). Righteousness (not to mention forgiveness) is not something that can be contained by partisan lines.
One of the Dwarves who was welcomed into Aslan’s country had been involved in shooting the horses.
#4 Never Forget That Secularism Is Dead
Resolved: that you will always remember that the glaring fact that secularism has failed will not prevent multiple voices from declaring that it has not in fact failed, and needs to be given another chance.
It is an incontrovertible fact that the United States was founded as a Protestant republic. But it is also an incontrovertible fact that a little boy is not a little girl, regardless of how mentally disturbed his mother is. The fact that something is incontrovertible does not mean—given the kind of world we live in—that it cannot be controverted.
So unless we return to the conditions that made our freedoms possible, we will not continue to have those freedoms. I used the cut flower illustration above, but I need to use it again. We are a cut flower civilization, and the petals are starting to fall off. Some of us are urging that the plant needs to be rooted in its original soil, and that there is no hope unless we do. Michael O’Fallon has gotten muddled, and somehow believes that re-rooting the plant will amount to knocking the remaining petals off.
“The proposition that the United States of America are a Christian and Protestant nation, is not so much the assertion of a principle as the statement of a fact . . . the organic life, the institutions, laws and official action of the government, whether that action be legislative, judicial, or executive, is, and of right should be, and in fact must be, in accordance with the principles of Protestant Christianity.”
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, p. 343.
The secularist lie worked as well as it did in America because our established religion was an informal establishment, and rested on the back of “what everybody knew.” But within the last few generations there has been a great intellectual apostasy, and the people leading it are engaged in shouting down our history, our monuments, our court cases, our statues, our heritage, and the names on our high schools.
When you assert—as you must—that the United States needs to repent, and confess the name of Jesus Christ, you will be accused of wanting to bundle the women of America into the red dresses of Gilead. You will be asked why you want to turn our secularist paradise into a religio-totalitarian nightmare. Your reply should be that you do not want to fetch anything out of the future—this is no ideological pipe dream. This is a work of civic ressourcement—I would be happy with a return to the constitutional arrangements we had in 1890. Was that out of The Handmaid’s Tale?
In the cultural transition between worldviews, in this case, between Christianity and neo-paganism, there is the negative element and the positive element. There is the “repentance,” the turning away, and there is the “faith,” the adoption of what you have turned toward. America is currently in between. We are in transition. Negatively, we have rejected Christianity. But positively, we have not yet fully adopted paganism, as urgently as it is pressed upon us by some. Positively, we are still a Christian nation. There is still time to halt the complete transition.
So do not listen to those Christian leaders who do not understand, and who do not care to understand, the political thought of the Reformers. When it comes to political theory, Scott Clark is about as Reformed as the pope’s nightgown.
#5 Read Pivotal Books
Resolved: that even though it would have been better to have begun reading twenty years ago, the need to have read has not evaporated.
So it is best to do what you can. Playing catch-up will be challenging, but it is not impossible. The fact that you cannot prepare fully should not prevent you preparing as best you can. In a weird quirk, even though the exam has started, and the timer is going, you are still allowed to study for it. This is an open book crisis.
What do I mean by pivotal books? They may or may not be classics, but they are books you need to understand for this particular moment in time. If you read these, you will at least be oriented.
My suggested list: Idols for Destruction (Schlossberg), Strange New World (Trueman), The Abolition of Man (Lewis), That Hideous Strength (Lewis), Intellectual Schizophrenia (Rushdoony), The Virtue of Nationalism (Hazony), Postmillennialism (Mathison), Money, Greed, and God (Richards), Gashmu Saith It (Wilson), Mere Christedom (Wilson), and Rules for Reformers (Wilson).
#6 Merry Warriors Fight Better
Resolved: that I will fight the good fight at whatever part of the shield wall is assigned to me, and I will fight with Christian ebullience, and not like a trapped animal.
If it is the Lord’s will that we go down, the very best way to go down is to go down singing. Laughter is warfare. Singing psalms is warfare. Sabbath feasting in the presence of your enemies is warfare. Joking with fellow prisoners in the tumbril is warfare. Worship is warfare.
If you understand that God is sovereign over this entire mess, exhaustively sovereign, and if you know in your bones that defeat is no refutation, then you will be formidable indeed. On this point, a couple of observations from Chesterton sum up the attitude nicely. First, he once said that the one taste of paradise on earth was to fight in a losing battle, and then not lose.
And . . .
“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”
Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
Or, as Aragorn put it, men are better than gates. You believe our cause is desperate? Welcome to earth, kid.
#7 Regime Theology Is Still Dangerous
Resolved: that I will settle in my mind that the old guard evangelicalism is the new liberalism, and I will behave accordingly.
This was most recently illustrated by the appalling tweet sent out by Christianity Today, that erstwhile masthead of some set of convictions or other. King Saul, senior editor, on the eve of the Battle of Mount Gilboa, needs to go see the witch of Endor, and have the ghost of Carl Henry scare the bejeebers out of him.
There was always a hazard in naming your magazine something like Christianity Today, because it is easy for a particular kind of mind to see those two words in tension, and to feel like one of them must give way to the other. Shall Christianity bow down to Today, or shall Today bow down to Christ? In the case of CT, the Christianity is now crawling around under the royal table of Today with its thumbs cut off, gathering whatever scraps are available.
But this need not have been. It could have been possible to have the two together in harmony. The Christian message is repent and believe, and the Spirit tells us “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts the way CT just did.” Our task is to have Today bend the knee.
As for their feckless tweet . . . no, everything is not changing so fast. Not anything that matters. The grass withers, and the flowers have different pronouns now, but the Word of the Lord stands forever. Second, if you are wrestling with the issues of gendered language, you are not figuring anything out. Rather, the world, the flesh, and the devil have together figured you out, and called in their chips. And third, if we are giving each other silent grace as we grope our way toward the lip of the Abyss, the last thing on earth we should call that is “giving grace.”
#8 Don’t Catch that Jew Thing Virus
Resolved: that I will not be distracted by sideshow conspiracy theories, and that I will keep my indignation laser-focused on the chief culprit in all our cultural woes, to wit, that wrecking ball called white Anglo-Saxon unbelief.
Would you like to know who was not a Jew? Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger, Lord Keynes, David Hume, Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Hobbes, LBJ, Franklin Roosevelt, Earl Warren, Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, Horace Mann, Harry Blackmun, Hugh Hefner, John Dewey, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bishop Spong, Herman Melville, Robin DiAngelo, Thomas Paine, Joe Biden, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton. The list of miscreants is long, much longer than I have time for now, and the tales we could tell about them are tawdry.
But some still want to blame the shadowy Jews, a secret cabal of conspirators with black hearts, but, without denying their portion of the game, for they must have one, we must still insist that when it comes to black hearts and sinister intentions, we Anglos can match them, step for step.
Perhaps the problem is that it is humans who are sinful, but let us not get distracted.
Also, incidentally, somebody is going to comb through my list in order to come with somebody who actually was a Jew. This will simply anchor my point. I don’t care.
#9 Keep Having Kids
Resolved: that to refrain from having kids simply because the world is going to the dogs is one of the central reasons why the world is going to the dogs.
People are a resource, not a liability. People are producers, not primarily consumers. People, as people, are great.
So it is possible to have too many commies and socialists, but not too many people. It is possible to have too many exvangelicals, but not too many people. What this means is that it is possible for Christians to sinfully play the role of breeders for the secularists—we have them, they educate them—but that is a separate problem. It is not just fertility. Samuel would not have been more greatly blessed if he had five sons who took bribes instead of two sons who did.
But, understood within the larger picture, meaning a restored understanding of the covenant household, a dogged commitment to a classical Christian education, and a full integration of the family with the worship of God, we want more arrows in the quiver, not fewer arrows.
The marriage bed is where your eschatology is enacted. Do you believe the kingdom has a future or not? God’s people are future-oriented, because we have been given the meaning of hope. Our first great-granddaughter was born the day after Christmas, and if Maggie is given an ordinary life span, she will see the twenty-second century. And allow me to make just one prediction about that twenty-second century, the only one I am willing to make. God will still be her God.
#10 Don’t Take the Bait
Resolved: that as we are gearing up for the inevitable showdown with the regime, I will not participate in any kind of resistance that is likely to be crawling with feds.
If an event is crawling with feds, it is almost certainly the kind of event that the feds would like to see happen. The kind of event that they would like to see happen is the kind that spirals out of control, and which can be used by them to justify the need for a crackdown. If they called J6 an insurrection, just imagine what they would call an actual insurrection. More than that, imagine what they would be able to justify on the basis of an actual insurrection. Whatever patriots do, it must not accelerate the apparent need for martial law. Why give them what they are yearning for?
At the same time, there must be a showdown, but it needs to be a showdown for which they have no countermeasures. As the story unfolds, it appears to me that the inciting incident is going to be the presidential election this coming November. Trump’s recent comments about a shiny new headquarters for the FBI demonstrate that he is as erratic as ever, and nobody with any sense is going to place any hope in him personally. But at the same time, he is a place-holder. He is more like the territory where the great battle will happen, and not like one of the generals. He is more like the town of Gettysburg, and not like Lee or Meade.
We know that the regime cannot afford to let him win, and we know that they are willing to be brazen about whatever they are going to do to prevent him from winning. We know that they are going to be brazen because they are being brazen now. Effronteries like removal from the ballot simply show how open they are willing to be about it all. The hesitancy of some conservatives to call this sort of thing a slow-motion coup attempt is simply one more illustration of how cowed we have all become. So the issue will be our response come November to that brazenness, and that is where we must act and act effectively, but without taking the bait.
I suspect that the dirty deeds of 2024 will make the 2020 election look like a Sunday School picnic, and I believe as a consequence that there will be more than a few voices on the right that urge everyone to go home and get their gun and Gadsden flag. That would be taking the bait, and it would be a move that the regime would be more than capable of handling. But an obvious anti-constitutional seizure of power would need to be countered, just as obviously. And it would need to be effective . . . as it easily could be.
I would propose that we look to the Poles for inspiration, and take a page from their Solidarity playbook. There is not a government on earth that could not be brought to its knees by a general strike. If somebody organizes a grand march on Washington, and a few idiots bring their semi-automatic rifles and Confederate flags, then the powers-that-be will feel like they have fallen into a chocolate pie. Again. It will be J6 all over again, only gaudier. And this will be the case even if two thirds of the Stars and Bars guys are on the FBI payroll.
All I am saying is that there are peaceful ways to become ungovernable.
#11 Worship Worthily
Resolved: that I will come before the Lord God every week in worship, together with my family, and we will worship Him in such a manner as to wish that every church in America might worship Him in the same way, believing that if we did so, we might be visited with reformation and revival.
As stated earlier, worship is warfare. All of us must learn what potency in worship means. This resolution comes last on my list, but it is not as the least. This is actually the capstone.