So the thing that got me going this time was an unfortunate article by Joe Carter, which you may read here. Joe has said, written, and done many fine things in the course of his life and ministry, and this article ought not to be included among them. If the Carters ever move, they should not take this article with them, but should rather offer it for sale in a yard sale cardboard box, along with some other sundry items from the garage.
Let me get to the point mentioned in my title first, and then I want to offer a few general observations on this broad theme—this theme being cultural Marxism, kinism, and synagogue shooters. I will not be engaging with Joe point by detailed point, but I will be responding to the general outline of his reaction to the synagogue murder.
The Gospel Coalition is drifting leftward because of the truth of Robert Conquest’s second law. “Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.” Because this is true, and because TGC is not explicitly right-wing, it is therefore in the process of heading left. This is something we can know a priori without ever looking at what is coming out of TGC, but as soon as we look we see plenty of evidences. And although Joe is personally a conservative, his article provides us with no exception to the rule.
Now the reply might come that Christian organizations, especially organizations established to emphasize “just the gospel” have no duty before to be “right wing.” Well, if Conquest is right, and I think he is, and if they have a duty not to become left wing, and they do, then QED.
If the lordship of Christ is not faithfully proclaimed over every area of life, this will leave a vacuum. Conservative Christians are the kind of people who play by the agreed-upon rules, and so they attempt to let the vacuum remain a vacuum. The left never plays by the rules, and so they fill the vacuum. And then one day we wake up (our version of getting woke) to the spectacle of commies everywhere.
A Brief Aside
Because I am going to be writing about racial conflict (again), and because my politics are slightly to the left of Jeb Stuart, I need to anticipate and answer the inevitable charge of racism. This is because we live in a time when the micro-aggressive curse of white supremacy can be found in the color of one’s ice cream choices at BaskinRobbins, and so a writer can’t be too careful. Even as I type these words, I notice that the background of my Word file is entirely white, and that I am exercising a hegemonic despotism over the black letters that I am putting down, as though I just get to assume that each one of them has to go right where I assign it to go. Brethren, is this not a form of slavery? Must not the letters be allowed to go wherever they want?
And so the postmodern case against white supremacy develops its most recent case against the logocentric authoritarianism evident in so much of what I have done up to this point, and working from within it saith djgoi perfickty slambot&yogurthasnobones and #thehigherthey delvethemuchness! *&%^*& !!
Okay. So if a racist is anybody who is winning an argument with a leftist, I have sometimes been racist. But if we divide racial sins into two biblical categories, I have hated that kind of sin for as long as I can remember. Those two categories would be racial animosity and racial vainglory. The Bible flatly condemns both of those ugly sisters. But the Bible does not condemn answering the left according to its folly. So both of those sins are wicked, and one of the central reasons Christ came was to overcome ethnic hostility as well as to cast down every form of ethnic vainglory. So are we good there?
For those who say that I don’t get to talk about this issue at all because I am white, male, hetero, and 65, and that my attempts to speak into this situation at all are a display case of the arrogance of the West, my reply is brief, but cogent. I don’t care.
And on a related point, as far as the Jews are concerned, without agreeing with Zionism, I have been a defender of Israel for my entire life. The Jews are a talented people who need Christ, who need to be grafted back into the Abrahamic olive tree, and who don’t need to have their coffee shops and delis blown up by Hamas in the meantime. So I hold that every bastardized form of “Christian” anti-Semitism is a pathetic rejection of the apostle Paul’s outlined strategy for winning the Jews. He said that we ought to be living in such a way as to bring down Deuteronomic blessings upon the Gentile nations, which will provoke Israel to jealousy. But anti-Semites won’t cooperate with this kind of thinking at all. They are the kind of people who are provoked to jealousy, which means they know nothing about the power of the gospel, and who are therefore constantly whining about how the Jews must be cheating.
Cultural Marxism and the Genetic Fallacy
Now Joe says that Christians who talk about cultural Marxism, or critical theory, or the Frankfurt School (as the basis of our cultural woes) are unwittingly giving aid and comfort to kinists—by using their tropes and all. This is because many on the alt-right use this kind of vocabulary also.
Two responses. The first is that anybody can play this game, and it is a pretty easy way to go. Joe identifies William Lind as a political theorist who popularized the cultural Marxism thing, which has since become a sneaky dog whistle way of blaming the Jews for stuff, which is why the kinists picked it up, and so when mainstream Christians complain about cultural Marxism they are (unwittingly!) being manipulated by racists.
So how can two play this game? This is an argument made by Bill Berkowitz in an article for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Why is Joe Carter circulating a response that is shared by the—now discredited—SPLC? No doubt he did it unwittingly, but I don’t think Christians ought to be repeating talking points that come from the cultural Marxists.
The second response is weightier, and is more than a tu quoque. More is needed here than a simple “well, you did it too.” Even though he did.
As a simple historical matter, there really were two basic strategies among the communists—the strategy of violent overthrow advocated by Lenin, and the strategy of the “long march through the institutions” advocated by Gramsci. Lenin’s had more initial success, but Gramsci knew that it was to be a marathon, not a forty-yard dash.
Lenin’s strategy required coordinated conspiracies. If a group of revolutionaries are going to seize power, then they have to meet first and plan the attack on the television station, say, or the legislative assembly. That is a conspiracy simpliciter, and given the adopted strategy, it is necessary in the very nature of the case. Joe dismissed the notion that the Frankfurt school was a conspiracy, but this was actually the genius of the Gramscian approach. It didn’t need to be conspiratorial in the Leninist sense. All it needed to be was a shared set of diseased opinions, which it was and is. And the effectiveness of this approach cannot be denied. Cancer can spread in organic ways.
And numerous responsible conservative writers and scholars have been aware of the insidious influence of the cultural Marxists for quite some time, and they didn’t need to live in the fever swamps to identify where the rot has come from. In fact, if you don’t identify where the rot is coming from, there will soon be no place left to live except for the fever swamps.
Joe concedes that ordinary Christians—bless their hearts—who pick up language that blames cultural Marxism for our woes can be innocent of the charge of racial transgression. But this allows an implication to stand that conservative scholars who traffic in such plain facts can legitimately be accused of being fellow travelers with kinists. And that is simply irresponsible.
Lame Sauce Conservatism
One of our common social problems is that whenever something like this most recent synagogue shooting happens, we immediately start looking around for root causes. What influences in society radicalized this young man? Or, put another way, how can we make political hay for our party out of this tragedy? If we examine his manifesto, and we find that he has picked up rhetoric from alt-this and alt-that, and the rhetoric matches some of the things that mainstream conservatives have been saying since the time of Burke, we can just glibly lump them all together.
Now this is a debate I am willing to have, but I think it would be more fitting to have such a debate after the shooter has been given a fair trial, is sentenced for the murder, and is hanged by the neck until dead. When we assign blame for such things, we ought to start with the culprit.
When we then get to the debate, I have no doubt that some of the penultimate influences on the shooter will be found to be kinist, and that kinists sometimes sound similar to traditional conservatives. So? I have been brawling with kinists long before that idea even occurred to Joel McDurmon. But even so, like the kinists, I believe that the West is under attack. Again so? That much is obvious. Hating what kinists offer as a demented response is not the same thing as needing to believe that they are wrong about that which requires a response. Someone who knows (correctly) that he has cancer might still resort to some juju-bean treatment center in Tijuana.
So when are talking about what helps to create the temptation to radicalization, we need to include the enormous contributions made by lame sauce conservatism. These are the conservative leaders who do deny the obvious. Sometimes it seems that this is about all they do. And then we have to sit back and watch the shrill debates between those who deny we have cancer and those who swear by the juju beans.
Much of our problem lies here. Guardians who do not guard. Watchmen on the walls who can’t see. Security guards who secure nothing. Sages who won’t read. Warriors who won’t fight. Other than that, everything’s swell.
Honor Your Mother
I have been involved in the recovery of classical Christian education for about four decades now. At the heart of this educational approach, we have emphasized the importance of honoring and defending the cultural heritage of the West. We do this unapologetically and without embarrassment. Naturally, however, a common question concerns whether this is too ethnocentric. What do we think about the need for multiculturalism and diversity?
Here is something I have said in response to this question for virtually this entire time. I said it most recently just this last weekend, and to my surprise it was a spontaneous applause line. It needs to become even more of an applause line—now more than ever. Here it is:
You cannot teach children to honor and respect the heritage and culture of other nations by teaching them to despise their own.
Being grateful for your own heritage is something that falls under the heading of the fifth commandment. Honor your father and mother, it says, and as Paul points out, it is the first commandment with a promise. The reason our life “in the land” is heading for years of tumult and tempest is because we have refused to honor father and mother. The promise is sure, but the results of the promise are coming apart in our hands precisely because we have given way to the idea that contempt is humility, and that the arrogance of the libertarian self is somehow liberating.
So if I honor my mother, this does not make me sneer at another man who honors his mother. In fact, this is what enables me to understand him, and respect what he is doing.
Why do I honor the West? Why do I fight to protect her? The answer is simple. She is my mother.