Imagine you agree to play a game with someone and the first rule of the game is that your opponent sets the rules of the game and he can change the rules whenever he likes for any reason he likes. That would mean that no matter your mastery of the rules, you must always lose the game because your opponent will simply change the rules whenever necessary. You would spend all of your time learning rules that keep changing to put you at a disadvantage.
This is a republished article from the ZmanBlog, reposted here with his permission.
Similarly, imagine that you decide to build a house on another man’s property, without getting a fixed agreement on your use rights. Since the landowner could at any time tell you to remove your house or even deny you access to it, the focus of your life must be making sure that you are in good standing with the landowner. While technically the house is yours, in reality, he sets the rules for how you use it. Like the game example above, your life is about complying with changing rules.
This is the situation for professional Christians. They have agreed to allow their opponents to set the rules of the moral framework. Like the guy building a house on another man’s land, they have built their church on progressive land. The professional Christian must always get permission to use his church. Or like the game example, he must spend his time making sure the tenets of his faith comport with the changing morality of the prevailing moral framework.
You see it in this rather bizarre post at First Things. There are two main assertions made in the post. One is that racism, and the mythological concept of white supremacy, are the worst things possible. The other point is that it is the duty of Christians to purge those accused of these sins from the ranks of the political Right. To make this point, he piles on a guy named Thomas Achord, a headmaster of a private classical Christian academy, who was accused of blasphemy by the Left.
A feature of professional Christianity is to not only abandon a fellow Christian attacked by the enemies of the faith but to also rush to the front of the line of bigots taking turns kicking the accused. Here is the execrable Rod Dreher taking some self-righteous shots at Thomas Achord. Like David French, Rod Dreher never misses an opportunity to promote his own virtue. He is who Emerson had in mind when he said, “The more he spoke of his virtue, the faster we counted the spoons.”
Note that Christian mercy never comes up when the Left starts howling for the blood of a Christian accused of violating the progressive faith. Professional Christians are like a pack of wild dogs. As soon as they sense a member of the pack is weak, they pounce on the poor fellow, tearing him to pieces. One cannot help but wonder if this behavior is solely to please the Left. Many of them, like Dreher and French, seem to take pleasure in these sadistic rituals.
Of course, the reason that professional Christians rush out these condemnations whenever one of their own has violated progressive dogma is to let the people holding the other end of the leash know they are a good boy. For professional Christians, what matters is remaining in good standing with the Left. These ritualized condemnations are a public act of piety – progressive piety. It is an affirmation that Christian piety must always rest on the moral foundations of the Left.
Another example of this sort of vulgarity is this self-published video from an Anglican priest in Nova Scotia Canada. If not for the collar, one would be forgiven for thinking Father Ed Trevors is a weirdo from the grievance studies department. In the description of this tantrum, he makes sure to post his pronouns. One thing missing from his public act of piety is a reference to Scripture. Like all Anglican priests, he is probably unfamiliar with the foundation text of his church.
Putting aside the vulgarity of these displays, the premise of the argument in that First Things article is anything but a Christian argument. Jesus Christ had plenty of chances to state his opinions about racism and white supremacy. He had nothing to say on the matter. His disciples wrote and spoke about the full range of the human dilemma but never bothered to mention anything about racism. Scripture is silent on the issue of race and the moral claims around it.
The reason for this is that these are entirely novel concepts conjured in the last century for purely political reasons. Even those on the winning side of the American Civil War lacked the racism concept. Lincoln famously said, “there is a physical difference between the white and black races that will for ever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality.” He repeated these claims throughout the Civil War to audiences on his side.
Now, some people will cherry-pick lines from Scripture claiming that Jesus was very much opposed to racism. Never mind that the concept did not exist in the age of Jesus and his language lacked words for the concept. Even if one can make these leaps of logic, the reason for doing so is to make Christian morality match progressive morality, to please the people controlling public morality. Those who bothered to read their Bible should be thinking of Matthew 6:24 right now.
In fairness, the professional Christian can argue that Christians must live in this world and that means navigating around secular moral claims. That is clearly not what we are seeing with these people. Instead, their Christianity is just part of the sales pitch they use to convince Christian people to embrace secular morality. Once you accept this new class of sins as far worse than those in your theology, you have subordinated your theology to those creating the new class of sins.
Arguably the most challenging thing is this age is to be a Christian. Your enemies control the commanding heights of Western society. Your friends are always looking for a way to profit from their alleged defense of you. It is a good reminder that all moral frameworks must stand alone. In the case of Christianity, it means the logic of the faith must stand outside of and often opposed to the prevailing orthodoxy.
Christianity now finds itself where it started. Welcome to the new Rome.