“It’s over, it’s finished, give up, DIE.”

In an exchange in 2006, a reader said that Christianity is dead, America is dead, and that it was foolish for conservatives like me to keep trying to hold on to them; and I replied.

The discussion, and others like it, is continuingly relevant, because people are constantly telling us in the most conclusive terms and all-knowing tones that “it’s over,” and, over and over, it turns out not to be true. Consider our current amazing circumstance. Just a few months ago, it was widely believed that the passage of nationalized health care with its body blow to American liberty was a foregone conclusion, and it turned out not to be true. The world, said Nietzsche, is filled with many healths and hidden isles of life. Don’t give up.

(I like to use Nietzsche in defense of Christianity and tradition; it drives the Nietzscheans nuts.)

- end of initial entry -

Laura Wood writes:

That’s a great post and you are very funny:

“You’ve got to be kidding. You expect me to take seriously this hackneyed modernist notion—my gosh, it was hackneyed even when I was a kid—that Nietzsche, Darwin and Freud killed Christianity?”

If Woody Allen was a traditionalist and a decent human being he would have said that.

LA replies:

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today so your vile sycophancy is particularly welcome.

Alan Roebuck writes:

Although your reader from 2006, Ben M., is probably not reading VFR, I have a brief response to him and his counsel of despair:

To Ben M:

When I began reading your words posted at VFR, I naturally assumed you were an ally of, or at least sympathetic to, traditionalist conservatism. After all, you obviously don’t approve of the dominance of liberalism. But the rest of your words reveal that you aggressively refuse to acknowledge any sign of hope, and this makes you our enemy, albeit one who also hates our other enemies.

Your basic position, in fact, is that you are correct by definition, regardless of any apparent evidence to the contrary. Liberalism rules, therefore liberalism always rules. Q.E.D. In this, you are either counseling despair or actively supporting the left. In either case, you are our enemy.

But consider: liberalism did not always rule. At one time, American society was controlled by principles that today would be called conservative if not reactionary. If your great-great-great-etc. grandfather had been writing 300 years ago, he would have said that conservatism would always rule. Sure, some individuals back then had liberal thoughts, but this private liberalism was irrelevant: publically, conservatism ruled, and it always would.

But granddad was wrong. Liberals worked hard to take over a society that initially despised what they stood for. And if they did it, so can we.

Now that you know the situation is not hopeless, you have to make a choice: Continue being our enemy, or fight for what’s good.

Charles S. writes:

It is chilling to hear the voice of evil, which is what I believe your reader “Ben M.” represents. I don’t know how to organize my thoughts too well on this topic, because it leaves me so shaken. however, I’ll try with the following.

As per Jim Kalb, Ben M. does indeed kowtow to a current consistency of the cognoscenti as being the ultimate authority, but he also has an innate faith in the progress of progressivism that it will always somehow be on the march to a society that is not nasty, brutish, and short. I think that is his ultimate conceit, because he and his kind are unknowing leeches living off of what still remains of the economic, cultural, and moral capital built up over centuries by Christians and traditional Conservatives. Without that capital, his existence would amount to running for cover in the wastelands of a Lebanon or Sudan.

Meanwhile, he and the current crop of progressives are helping to suck out this society’s lifeblood. If it continues, that will eventually kill the civilization, but not before they die and have already done their damage, all the while thinking they were doing something worthwhile (I will not use the term “good”).

Ben M. represents “the banality of evil.” If his position in time and space were changed, he would have smugly stepped into some minor role within Attila’s horde, Mohammed’s Jihad, Stalin’s Russia, or Hitler’s Germany. After all, that’s what everyone else in authority thought was fashionable, wasn’t it?

It appears that progressives are now taking off their masks because they feel they are in the final stages of their victory. But as everyone else sees the devil thereby revealed, I can only conclude that civil disobedience and then something far more violent is on the way.

Hannon writes:

Thanks for resurrecting this one. I can see why some criticised your extended attention to the Reader’s missives, but also why you chose to respond at length.

This, from Gintas, really got my attention:

I like how you ended your (first) response: “What do you believe in?” The subsequent discussion only shows how this reader is himself a void.

This entreaty of yours struck me similarly since I have been in a similar position in discussions with liberals whose views are difficult to pin down. One ends up being forced to ask the obvious questions directly because they give nothing voluntarily while delighting in the discourse. The frequently employed passive voice is also a major clue that this person enjoys thinking about and writing such things but sees no actual value in it, or in any earnest response. This reinforces my belief that conservatives generally hold forth intellectually in good faith a greater proportion of the time than liberals do.

The Reader truly sounds like a wily post-modern Beelzebub in his tone and syntax. I suppose he does not restrict himself in these matters, though.

Richard P. writes:

Your old conversation with Ben M. was fascinating. I don’t disagree with many of the points he makes concerning the dire straits Christianity faces. But there is a huge flaw in his thinking that is all too common amongst modern people both liberal and conservative. He fails to understand that a pendulum swings in two directions.

Western man falling away from his religion and into decadence is not some new phenomenon. It has happened over and over again within Christendom. Commenters in the early 18th century described London as a giant gin-soaked brothel with people having drunken sex on public streets in broad daylight. By the late 19th century under Victoria, however, public religiosity and social enforcement of morals were the order of the day. Late 19th century America was pretty decadent. In the west, drug-use, crime, and prostitution were rampant. But within a couple of decades the Third Great Awakening had taken hold.

Many places in Europe saw decades of empty churches and lax public morals following Westphalia and the brutality of the Thirty Years War. The history of medieval and early-modern Europe has many examples of these extremes, from the forced conversions of the Spanish Inquisition to the broad secularism of the Dutch Golden Age. Secularism is not some point toward which Western man is steadily progressing. It is instead one end of the arc. Generations change and the pendulum swings.

Ben M. sees a world where those with power and authority universally see truth as a universe of mass and matter without meaning. They control our institutions and only their philosophy is allowed into respectable discourse. On this he is right. But that is not the end of the story. Their world is also a tyranny riddled with contradictions. The generation that has enforced and maintained this tyranny will be leaving us soon. The atheistic evangelism of people like Hitchens and Dawkins sounds less like the confident expression of the philosophy of the future than the panicked screeching of old men who are dumbfounded that they have not won. They seemed outraged that Christians still dare to exist.

New generations question the world they inherit. The recent death of J.D. Salinger provides a case in point. What better symbol could there be of the rejection of an older generation’s values than Holden Caulfield? To what will future generations turn when they question a philosophy of meaninglessness?

And that is where we find the other end of the arc. They are people who see truth in the incarnation of the son of the living God. They are legion. Ben M. is right that Christians have no authority in our culture. Christians are often forced into silence by the sheer hostility of much of this culture. And yet we exist. Our models should be men like Solzhenitsyn and Havel and Walesa. We must recognize that this order will not last forever. We must live in the truth, not just for ourselves but so that new generations find another view when they question the current order. We must have an answer when the question is asked.

The pendulum will swing. It always has.

LA replies:

This is very well said. However, I would not base the hoped-for change on the expected dying of the generation we don’t like. After all, we will pass away too. We shouldn’t say, “We will win, history is on our side, because our opponents are going to die some day.” That’s what progressives do. They do it to us, when they say, “The white West is aging and fading and is being replaced by younger nonwhites; history is against you, demographics are against you, so surrender and sign on to the new world order.” We should not, like the left, base ourselves on material determinist arguments. We should base ourselves on truth.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 01, 2010 02:01 PM | Send

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