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Is restoration a pipe dream?

Can Christendom be restored? When something started disappearing in the Middle Ages, and has been disappearing more and more every year since then, it looks like the tendency of things is rather against it. Still, there are points that should be kept in mind:

  • The definitive public rejection of Christendom was actually quite recent, mid-to-late 20th century. Before then it was possible publicly to refer to the Western countries as Christian, and for politicians, mainstream pundits and what not to make public comments that implied the truth of Christianity. The place of Christianity might have been like the place of the Emperor in old Japan, apparently more notional than substantive, but that doesn’t mean it was dispensable.
  • The replacement of Christendom by managerial liberalism is not working well. There’s no doubt a great deal of ruin in a nation, but there must be some limit. When a civilization wills the destruction of the conditions of its own existence it’s not a Chicken Little attitude to say it won’t last.
  • The glorious ’60s led very quickly to radical increases in crime, radical disorders in education and family life, and radical degradation of and intellectual life and popular and high culture. Post-Christian Western societies don’t reproduce themselves, they propagate by infection. They must support themselves by importing non-Westerners. Can that go on forever?
  • Christendom is the society whose public life is Christian. It exists as long as there are two or more Christians. Liberal society is the society whose public life is defined by liberalism. It is in decline, because liberalism destroys the preconditions of public life—the belief that the world is an ordered cosmos, so that public discussion can be more than a matter of conflicting egos, and the basis in common identity and substantive moral commitment for public loyalty and trust.
  • It therefore seems likely, as a Darwinian matter, that if a society includes both Christians and advanced liberals its public life will eventually become Christian. Christianity can sustain public life, but liberalism can’t in the long run. While liberalism can infect public life, and seem to dominate it as a tendency, when it is finally victorious it destroys its host and thus itself.

The argument in brief is that Christianity is an adequate picture of man and the world and liberalism is a grossly inadequate picture of those things. Liberalism can exist as a tendency within Christianity but not otherwise. When it definitively rejects Christianity and tries to order social life on its own it destroys itself. Something else will have to pick up the pieces. Why not Christianity?



When you say that liberalism will destroy “public life,” it’s not entirely clear what you’re claiming. For instance, it’s obvious that liberalism indeed destroys the good order we associate with sound political doctrine—doctrine which has its roots in Christian soil. But to say that society will not survive in some form under liberalism (if that’s what you’re saying) is going too far. Society, after all, survived for thousands of years prior to the advent of Christ.

I think it’s better to say that *self-governing* society cannot exist under liberalism—which is indeed what I think you meant to say. People who are not fit to govern themselves will be governed by another, and when the one they are governed by is not fit to govern either, the result must necessarily be tyranny. That, without question, is what is on the horizon for America.

By “public life” I meant public discussion that leads somewhere and other voluntary productive public activity. So it’s a somewhat weaker expression than “self-government” but covers some of the same ground.

“And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good
Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal
life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest
thou me good? none is good, save one, that is,
God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not
commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal,
Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father
and thy mother” (Jesus Christ, Luke 8:18-20,
King James Version, as I am not Catholic or
mainstream at all).

Those who try to follow the Ten Commandments comprise a very small minority in the USA. Many of those few are victims of no-fault divorce, because our laws (no-fault and unconstitutional punishments solely from accusations) work in favor of all who want to divorce. Their fertility rate is low despite their beliefs. More children in pagan countries know who their fathers are and have less risk of incest. The defiling of Christianity from within by tolerance of romanticism and divorce can have evil consequences, indeed.

Jim: I want to congratulate you warmly for this blog. May God bless everybody associated with it and their loved ones. Ad Jesum per Mariam :)

Mr. Kalb’s analysis assumes that the destruction wrought by liberalism will leave the society in existence, allowing some members of that society, namely Christians, to pick up the pieces of civilization and resume. That would be the hope, and it may be a sound one. But we cannot underestimate the damage that liberalism can achieve before it exhausts itself. Since liberalism lives by gobbling up the economic and cultural substance of society, it is possible that liberalism will not end until the society itself is functionally destroyed and there is nothing left to save.

A restored Christendom would involve discontinuities with what we have now. There would also be many things carried forward. It’s impossible to predict just what the mix and configuration would be. But since liberalism must inhabit a society that is functioning reasonably well to exist at all, I don’t see how it can wholly destroy society.

The ebola virus must inhabit a body that is functioning reasonably well in order to exist also. I suppose actual individual liberals may have a more developed sense of self-preservation than actual individual ebola viruses, and possibly even a better sense of what it takes to preserve the host in order to preserve the self. I wouldn’t count on it though.

Mr. Kalb wrote,

“But since liberalism must inhabit a society that is functioning reasonably well to exist at all, I don’t see how it can wholly destroy society.”

But isn’t it already doing it, and right before our eyes? It does it piecemeal, not in one fell swoop, of course—though it is foolish and blind enough to also attempt the latter if it could.

Why are we talking about Christian restoration in this very blog? Isn’t it because something has destroyed part of the institution, influence, and community of Christianity (and of Judaïsm of course, else why would we have Michael Medved and Rabbi Lapin today?) which we knew as children not that many decades ago? I mean, my own teenagers (my youngest is nine) are almost growing up on a different planet than I did, and MY WIFE HAS SENT THEM TO CATHOLIC SCHOOLS! Even Catholic schools have partly caught the ebola virus of liberalism!

I was raised as an atheist from around the end of fourth grade (after receiving a Catholic education—weekly catechism and Sunday Mass—up to that point) but I well remember the “feel,” the “tenor,” of the whole society around me throughout my childhood, adolescence, and teen years—it was grounded in the Judaeo-Christian tradition in a way inconceivable today, and everyone whether they liked that tradition or not basked in it and throve all the more because of it, in the spiritual sense as well as in every sort of practical sense.

If liberalism’s not what has done all the destroying of that I’d like to know what has, so we can adjust our aim in the direction of the real target.

“Society” is extremely complex and multilayered, and it’s not nearly as integrated a structure as the human body. It’s more like an invertebrate that can regenerate itself from fragments than a man who dies when you run over him with a steamroller.

Also, for liberalism to be operational at all it needs a functional state bureaucracy, legal system and system of education, and a certain degree of public trust. It seems to me that those things will all go long before you get to the extreme case Mr. Auster seemed to have in mind in which there are no fragments of civilization or cultural substance left to save and put back together. It’s as if the ebola virus were to die when the victim became too weak to move around on his own.

Mr. Kalb wrote,

“It seems to me that those things will all go long before you get to the extreme case … in which there are no fragments of civilization or cultural substance left to save and put back together.”

Of course there might be fragments left to save and put back together after liberalism is through wreaking its destruction: what was that history again, about the Irish monks—the ones who wrote the Book of Kells—almost singlehandedly salvaging a chunk of the culture of the West during a time of great turmoil in which German barbarians, I think it was, had so disrupted, dismantled, and fragmented the society of their day that only little islands of it remained here and there, certain remote Irish monasteries being one such island? But if we’re reduced to fragments, isn’t that more or less the equivalent of the game being up? I mean, I’ll play the role those Irish monks played if called upon to do so, but isn’t it a pretty drastic thing for a society to be reduced to a disrupted, dismantled, fragmented state, compared to the harmonious whole it once was?

What most of us see of liberalism needs bureaucracies to survive but not what a few of us see. At liberalism’s root is frustrated paganism. Frustrated/rising paganism can get a lot rougher than what we now see in politics. More than one feminist goddess worship site has cheered some imagined future scenario when Christians will be beheaded.

Some of the very old pagan civilizations are thought to have been consumed by human sacrifice—enemies, at first, then citizens. And yeah, I’ve taken John somewhat literally.