What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Blaming the losers

It is a common though unfortunate characteristic of human nature to want to blame the losers in any war for their loss. What did they do wrong? They must have done something wrong, or they would not have lost.

A different approach is much more open to seeing losses as glorious and heroic. Small bands of patriots or heroes fight to the best of their ability, in the face of overwhelming odds, and are overcome at the last by sheer force or even by treachery. They are to be praised, not blamed. Their names go down in history as an inspiration to those who come later and serve what they served, bringing life out of the ashes once more. To quote Mr. Smith, lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.

Of course, in any given real historical struggle, these two options are not mutually exclusive. The losing side may have made strategic mistakes, seen in hindsight, at any point along the way, but they may still be praiseworthy, and treachery or overwhelming force may still be the main cause of the loss.

In politics and history, the desire to blame the losers strongly is for some people almost irresistible, a tendency that I find puzzling. It seems to flow from a desire to have a gigantic Story (with a capital S) to tell about What Went Wrong and how we got where we are. It may also arise from a desire to appear even-handed in hindsight. If one blames one's own side (as it existed decades ago or even centuries ago), this shows one's sapient open-mindedness. The desire to blame the losers also sometimes arises from frustration: "We lost. We were suckers. How can we be sure not to be suckers again now?" It can also arise from some ideological agenda. For example, if one really does believe that the American founding was ill-done and ideologically wrong-headed, then one may try to trace a direct line from, "All men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights," etc., to the present abortion holocaust, despite the fact that that is a very hard sell, both logically and historically. On this view, America has fallen morally because America as such was fatally flawed from the beginning. The desire to recast history in literary terms, so that nations become like tragic characters with a fatal flaw, is hard for some to resist.

All of this musing is the lead-up to my rejecting (or at least very greatly qualifying) a certain narrative concerning what has happened to American conservatives in the last one hundred years or so. It looks like we have lost the culture wars, and the temptation to blame "us," or some historical version of "us," is for some people apparently irresistible.

The blame narrative that I want to respond to goes approximately like this:

American conservatives have lost the culture wars because pietistic American fundamentalists retreated from culture and science. They wasted their best and brightest by being anti-culture, anti-art, anti-science, and anti-elite, and apolitical, and this left a vacuum into which the left entered. It also left intelligent American conservatives vulnerable to proselytizing by more cultured and educated leftists, which created a tendency for groups and institutions to swing from the right to the left. American conservatives lost because they were afraid to engage and ran away.

This article by Michael Horton, which was recently drawn to my attention, articulates a version of this thesis. Forced to acknowledge the rise of the religious right in the 80s, which was the very opposite of apolitical, Horton adds an epicyclic corollary to the effect that the Reagan revolution was actually an attempt at "gnostic utopia building" akin to the gnostic utopia building of the left. Hence it, too, was misguided, even though it was a form of political engagement. Some actual quotes (the above is my own wording).

[T]he Gnostic’s hatred of the world can take two forms: either the Gnostic insists on destroying it and remaking it all over again in the form of pure spirit, or he recoils from the world altogether and seeks security in a small group of purists who isolate themselves from the godless. We can see both approaches in countless movements that are always deeply religious or spiritual in their basic motive—even when the proletariat replaces God. Raze this world to its foundations and build a new civilization from scratch. History is moving toward an endpoint, either of apocalyptic disaster or utopia, and we are going to be agents of this providential destiny.
We also see the two approaches of the Gnostic in various forms of evangelical engagement with politics. For the first half of the twentieth century, fundamentalists tended to separate themselves from the godless world but then became politically engaged in the 1980s. Their basic attitude toward the world, however, remained constant: a relatively hostile view of culture, science, the arts, and especially of “elites” who increasingly were themselves Gnostics of the Left—the same Manichean divide between light and darkness, the saints and the reprobate, agents of revolutionary freedom versus coconspirators with the forces of evil.

This analysis of American evangelicalism in the 20th century is full of holes.

Don't misunderstand me. I can come up with examples myself of fundamentalist hostility to culture. Here's one that is pretty emblematic: We owned, and hopefully still have around the house somewhere, a charming astronomy book for children by H.A. Rey, author of the Curious George books. It contains (of course) a description not only of the constellations but of the Greek mythology behind their names. Our copy belonged to a Christian school at some point before we bought it, and we found that the pages on Greek mythology had been literally glued together in order to (presumably) prevent impressionable children from reading about pagan Greek gods and heroes. While the word "gnostic" is far too highbrow to apply to such an activity, the word "silly" certainly does apply, and it's an excellent example of anti-cultural disengagement from the world.

I went to self-identified fundamentalist churches and Christian schools, graduated from a small, conservative Bible college, and spent plenty of time in my eager, angry youth loudly and harshly criticizing disengagement from intellectual pursuits on the part of fundamentalist conservatives. I was about to get a sharp lesson when I went to graduate school and discovered that the vandals on the left were at that very moment busily destroying the world of high intellectualism that I was so eager to join and contribute to.

It was only subsequently that I began to understand the more complex truth: Disengaged, independent institutions that have not been taken over and rotted out are available to be filled with good content as well as bad. And people with a mental habit of distrusting those who have merited distrust (e.g., self-styled secular intellectuals) may keep their mental soil virgin to be later seeded and tilled with many good things.

And something much like this has happened in the educational realm. Subsequent decades saw the rise of both the home schooling movement, with its earnest emphasis upon teaching children the best that has been thought and said, and the classical Christian school movement, which pushed for teaching Latin to young children and much else that is of great value. While home schooling, of course, varies almost infinitely with the parents in question, the movement as a whole has shown a very strong bent towards teaching children good literature, comprehensive history, foreign languages, and artistic and musical proficiency--hardly a Gnostic rejection of the world. And let's not forget that teaching the Bible is, to put it no higher, part of making cultured Western men all by itself. Similarly, though there are oddities in the classical school movement (e.g., an almost religious promotion of Aristotelian logic as opposed to modern formal logic), it can hardly be said to be anti-cultural!

Christian colleges, too, that have kept themselves "apart" in various ways may have much to offer. For example, one quite conservative Christian liberal arts college that I know of is graduating some excellent classical musicians.

At this point the issue of creation science comes up--a fraught topic. As an OEC and major booster of intelligent design theory, I straddle two worlds here, and perhaps that is why I'm moved to ask: Who is more "gnostic" and "anti-science"--the young earth creationist who is shocked at fellow Christians who think the earth is old or the theistic evolutionist who prides himself on being a methodological naturalist and refuses to see the overwhelming empirical evidence of design in biology? The former may eventually accept an old earth while retaining his rightful skepticism of Darwinism and naturalism and his recognition of the obvious--that biological entities were designed by a super-intelligent Being. The latter has already considered the detectable design option and has rejected it; he will go on indefinitely beating his head against the question of how naturalistic processes (or processes that appear naturalistic) brought about the diversity of life on earth. That question is unanswerable because it is wrongly posed in the first place.

As for Horton's negative evaluation of the rise of the political right in the 80s, it is just wrong en toto. What conservatives were trying to do in the 80s was not to build a Gnostic utopia but to restore some remote semblance of the sober, reasonable, and distinctly non-utopian vision of the American founders. And they were doing so not in any revolutionary way but by working as good citizens within the very mechanisms set up by the U.S. Constitution itself--electing people to public office, trying to pass Constitutional amendments, opposing bad constitutional amendments, pressing elected Presidents to appoint originalist rather than activist judges, etc. If this is Gnostic utopia building, I'm a monkey's uncle.

The most that one can say in hindsight is that they may have been too optimistic about the probability of their success in bringing about their laudable goals by their laudable means. That is a far cry from having a Gnostic utopian vision. And their optimism was not entirely unreasonable even if things haven't turned out as they hoped.

As for "co-conspirators with the forces of evil," I hate to break it to Horton, but those guys exist. They are out there screaming right now to maintain the right to murder their own children and to take away the parental rights of conservative parents over their own children. And much more: They desire and are seizing the power to mutilate children with drugs, to mutilate the bodies of young people with surgery, to teach bizarre falsehoods about sex to people of all ages, and to coerce sane people to cooperate in and celebrate perversion, insanity, and murder. If those stark statements are offensive to the genteel, I do not apologize. They can be justified by innumerable data points. Indeed, the "forces of evil" are becoming more blatant, more open, and more ambitious in their goals just in the last few years. We fight them not because we hate the world but because we love the beautiful world that God has made and mankind whom God has made and hate what they are trying to do to all of that. If our forefathers in the 1980s saw where the left was going (and many did, at least to some extent), we should hail them as cultural prophets and prophetesses, not dismiss them as Gnostics.

Horton's evaluation stacks the deck against boring American evangelicals in a way that makes it impossible for them to win. If they eschew politics, they are accused of pietism and of leaving a political vacuum. If they engage and mobilize as citizens partly by recognizing the truly alarming threats facing our nation, they are Gnostics who see evil in the world. Never mind that they happened to be right about the evil, and where it was coming from, and who was promoting it.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a proud Never Trump conservative, so nothing I am saying here says anything about how one should vote in the 2020 election, except "not Democrat." I'm certainly not saying that the religious right nowadays is doing what I want them to do, though that isn't because they are Gnostic revolutionaries. But I suppose if one refrains from voting in some given election, one can be accused of being a world-hating Gnostic pietist, right? Frankly, these are just not helpful categories.

While others were fiddling while Rome burned, over the decades from 1970 to the present, American social conservatives built all of the following: The Christian school movement (pre-classical), the home schooling movement, the classical Christian school movement, many Christian colleges, several invaluable pro bono legal organizations, the intelligent design movement, the pro-life movement, including countless crisis pregnancy centers, and too many political and cultural think tanks to name, producing valuable content. We may be pardoned if we see in this neither quietistic rejection of the world nor cultural disengagement nor Gnostic utopianism but rather vigorous, difficult, and even at times heroic cultural, social, and political engagement, fighting difficult battles against cruel odds and unscrupulous and powerful opponents. I lift my glass and say, "Kudos."

Ignore the would-be-clever theorizers who are out there, wise after the fact, saying, "You must have done it wrong, or you would have won."

Some days the dragon wins. Some decades. Some centuries. But for the everlasting right the silent stars are strong.

Now, let's get back to work supporting our brothers and telling the truth for those who have ears to hear.

Comments (27)

Excellent. Thank you, Lydia.
I recognize the wisdom and necessity of all you've written. But at the same time, I fear that some of the failures in the culture war can indeed be traced -- at least to some extent -- to historic Christian mistakes. It may be of benefit to call them out (e.g.):
- losing the Way (i.e., satisfaction with orthodoxy - Truth - and orthopraxy - Life -- Luke 18:18-30)?
- focusing on Christian "fruit" (tolerance? family? marriage?) at the expense of the Christian "root" (John 15:1-5)?
- being complacent about dangerous educational trends (Mark 9:42)?
- elevating power (Luke 9:47-48)?
- fixating on sex and sexual practice (Matt 12:31)?

Well, I don't know what you have in mind for all of your examples. The many examples that I gave show exactly the opposite (in the demographic I have in mind) of complacency about dangerous educational trends. It may go without saying that I disagree strongly with any within the Christian cohort who kept on sending their kids to public schools, saying it wasn't that bad or wouldn't get that bad or their 10-year-olds needed to be "salt and light" or any of that. But *that* group was not the target of Horton's essay but rather precisely the opposite. Pretty clearly the group he was excoriating was the group that took their kids *out* of public schools. And they were the very opposite of complacent.

My immediate reaction is to disagree quite strongly with your last item. The forces of evil (I do not hesitate to use that term) are the ones who have fixated on sex and sexual practice and are destroying our culture from that vantage point. They are having a lot of success. We had to "fixate" on that because that was the side at which the attack was coming and the place where defense was necessary. And it still is. There are some other such places (killing the elderly, for example). But I have (I must admit) little patience with people who criticize Christians for "fixating" on sex when that is precisely where the greatest insanity is being forced upon us, ruining lives, and taking souls. If anything, we probably need to fixate *more* on it, even if that offends more genteel or hipster-ish Christians. Sorry.

As far as "elevating power," if that merely refers to trying to be good citizens and political activism generally, I disagree there, too. Of course, as a Never Trump conservative, I think it becomes a mistake when it blinds us to a candidate's bad character. But in itself, the focus on "power" is just another word for political engagement. I'm totally unimpressed with the "hurray for the downfall of the religious right" talk a la Russell Moore.

I wonder how much of our "disagreement" (not even sure we are there yet!) on the topic of education is due to chronology. After all, the Catholic church's counter-reformation has plenty to approve. But it came *after* the mistakes of the Catholic church that drove the Reformation, even as the home-school movement came *after* the mistakes of the church with respect to education.

The forces of evil are primarily concerned, not so much with sex per se, but with any weakness to be found in the church of Jesus Christ. That those forces fixated on sex and sexual practice is strong evidence that the church had (has?) such a weakness. The fact that we were (are?) unable and unprepared to handle the insanity being foisted upon us is precisely due to having developed poor habits of thought on the matter. Similarly with power.

For a time I shared this view, that evangelicals had done a lot of harm in the culture wars because we hadn't done a good job "listening." What I now see is that constantly accusing a person who is acting in good faith of "not listening" will cause them to reflexively silence themselves as an act of good faith in order to ensure that the accuser has had adequate opportunity to make their case. This generally has one of two effects: either they will be beaten into submission, saying things like, "I now see that I have a lot to learn," or "I thinks its more important that we just listen" (which means that they must listen as the left talks), or they will flip the game board in frustration and refuse to care at all, since the rules are rigged.

I don't see many on the cultural left inviting Christians to have a healthy, open conversation about why they oppose, for example, homosexuality. On the other hand, I see plenty of movement in the evangelical world toward a softer stance on it, which indicates to me that (particularly young) Christians are taking seriously the notion that preaching harshly against those who experience same-sex attraction is counter-productive. I would say that the very fact that evangelicals in general tend to blame themselves for the state of the culture war is evidence of the kind of conscientiousness that makes it more like they were at least attempting to do the right thing and operate in good faith, similar to Calvinists arguing that being worried about not being elect probably means that you are elect. On the other hand, I'm not aware that many on the left realize that it is their own activism that has alienated the very people whose cooperation they need. Instead of recognizing how their actions have hurt people or turned them away, they victim-blame.

On the other hand, I see plenty of movement in the evangelical world toward a softer stance on it, which indicates to me that (particularly young) Christians are taking seriously the notion that preaching harshly against those who experience same-sex attraction is counter-productive.

I think taking a softer stance on homosexuality is not a good thing. Nor is "preaching harshly against those who experience same-sex attraction," at least as I would use that phrase, the only alternative to "taking a softer stance." Same-sex attraction is intrinsically disordered and perverted. If someone fights against it, recognizing it for intrinsically disordered, then he is virtuous for doing this and terribly unfortunate in being afflicted with a desire for sinful perversion. Just as a man would be if he found himself "ambushed" with a desire for sex with children or animals and consistently loathed and resisted these perverted feelings that came upon him. Nonetheless, it is important to keep clear that these *are* perversions, not even *only* sins, and that not all sins are equal. Those who take on a gay identity, even if they do not act upon their perverted desires, are actively sinning in so doing and are harming both themselves (mentally) and society by taking on such an identity. They are not *merely* people who "experience same-sex attraction." Unfortunately, too many celibate "gay" people are being given platforms in the current evangelical church and are teaching the legitimacy of a gay identity, the complete rejection of all attempts at biblical talk therapy that even *might* help someone with same-sex attraction, and cooperation with transgender insanity. And those who are trying to show their good faith by not preaching harshly are cooperating with these leaders. This is not a good thing, and it certainly isn't necessary in order to show that we "were in good faith" all along.

All that being said, Joseph, I'm glad you have decided that evangelicals are mostly in good faith and are seeing the victim blaming and attempted silencing on the left.

The forces of evil are primarily concerned, not so much with sex per se, but with any weakness to be found in the church of Jesus Christ. That those forces fixated on sex and sexual practice is strong evidence that the church had (has?) such a weakness.

Doug, I just do not agree with this at all. The forces of evil certainly do exploit weaknesses, but they also create them. We cannot at all reliably infer that Christians must have had a weakness in some area from the fact that Satan focuses his fire power on that area. There are many other reasons for such a focus--for example, the fact that that area is so crucial to human life, that it is indeed the source of life, and that tearing it down will lead many souls to hell, create chaos, and greatly harm human flourishing. An enemy may attack a castle or location not because it is weak but because it is strategically so valuable. I believe that this is what has happened in the culture wars. Indeed, the long "war of attrition" carried out by the left shows in many ways that in, say, 1950 Christians were really quite strong on these issues. But the devil took the long view and sent in his sappers and is bringing down the fortress. Because it was important to him. And understandably so. He hates life, babies, the beauty of sex in marriage, families, cohesive society, and healthy boys and girls.

//I wonder how much of our "disagreement" (not even sure we are there yet!) on the topic of education is due to chronology. After all, the Catholic church's counter-reformation has plenty to approve. But it came *after* the mistakes of the Catholic church that drove the Reformation, even as the home-school movement came *after* the mistakes of the church with respect to education.//

Not sure if it's pertinent to the thread, but the Catholic Counter-Reformation unleashed the monster of skepticism onto the world which I believe we are dealing with. The proverbial monster that gets out of control form the maker. https://rationalityofaith.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/how-the-17th-c-french-catholic-use-of-pyrrhonian-scepticism-against-calvinism-created-the-french-enlightenment-skeptics/

To clarify, I'm not saying that I think it's a good thing that people are taking a softer stance. I'm just observing that this is in fact what is happening, and the fact that it is happening is for me what puts the lie to the idea that evangelicals are close-minded, unwilling to compromise, unable to see or care about the psychological pain people experience, etc etc. In other words, everyone who is operating out of the (mistaken) notion that the left is acting in good faith, just wants "the same rights as everyone else," that they just want people to "stay out of their bedroom," is getting dragged further to the left in order to accommodate them. But I see no corresponding motion on the left towards moderation: when I was young (90s), it was "what do you care what people do in their private lives?" Now it's constitutional amendments to force you to care (and affirm) what people do in their private lives.

I wrote (https://joedrinkscoffeeandthinksaboutjesus.wordpress.com/2019/04/15/something-like-a-rational-argument-against-same-sex-sexual-acts/) that I think the attempt to normalize homosexuality, or to act is if it's something about which "good people disagree," is to indulge in a kind of irrationalism. I believe Romans 1 is absolutely crystal-clear here: at some point, fundamentally rejecting God and replacing him with our own wisdom robs us of our ability to reliably perceive the difference between good and evil, hence why Paul ends by condemning not just those that engage in it but those who praise them for engaging in it. Once you entertain as plausible the idea that sex between men is morally equivalent between reproductive sex, you have indulged in a break from reality that will propagate outward. Hence why it's not just a sin but an "abomination."

Now, let's get back to work supporting our brothers and telling the truth for those who have ears to hear.

Have you ever witnessed genteel brothers and sisters who did not support brothers who tell the truth for those who have ears to hear? Or perhaps worse, the "genteel" criticized and even undermined faithful brothers and sisters?

If you have, how do you respond biblically to these genteel scolds?

Let me speculate reasonably. Suppose in some important regards, both Dr. Horton and Dr. Moore are who you might consider as "genteel." "Genteel" with a negative connotation. The "Genteel" arguably aids and abets "the forces of evil" by criticizing the Faithful.

What is to be done? Does not the Enemy still benefit from the polemics between the "Genteel" and the Faithful? And both the Forces of Evil and the Undecideds see this division play out. And more Undecideds refuse to join with the Faithful as a result?

Yes, TUAD, I have seen that many times. Well, I guess this post is my answer to "what is to be done." I tell the Dr. Moores that they are wrong and try to encourage the faithful. :-)

The forces of evil (I do not hesitate to use that term) are the ones who have fixated on sex and sexual practice and are destroying our culture from that vantage point. They are having a lot of success. We had to "fixate" on that because that was the side at which the attack was coming and the place where defense was necessary. And it still is. There are some other such places (killing the elderly, for example). But I have (I must admit) little patience with people who criticize Christians for "fixating" on sex when that is precisely where the greatest insanity is being forced upon us, ruining lives, and taking souls. If anything, we probably need to fixate *more* on it, even if that offends more genteel or hipster-ish Christians. Sorry.

Bullseye Lydia. Truth bomb.

This completely lines up with how I view things as well. Since my teenage years I've seen what looks like a monomaniacal pursuit of removing any sense of being able to say "X is wrong". I've seen many self-professed Christians make acceptance of the homosexual/bisexual/trans agenda the fulcrum upon which their entire view of you is leveraged. You can deny the deity of Christ, the Resurrection, the vicarious atonement, maybe even the existence of God, but that's ok if you're "affirming", "inclusive", "welcoming". On the other hand, even taking St Paul's clear words at face value (and yes, I think the arguments that relativize Paul's words are sorry exercises in modern rationalization) and acknowledging that I too "fall short of the glory of God" and that I too am hoist on my own petard of trying to take scripture seriously, and I am dismissed as a bigot. It strikes me that a major component of social media is demonstrating your cutting-edge "wokeness" and correct thoughts to the hordes so that you can be praised/liked for having the proper opinions on things.

I don't think it is confirmation bias that, just about every time I turn on the TV or read something mainstream, I'm subject to a barrage of pro-LBGT hectoring and object lessons. Not that stuff happens and, by the way, incidentally, the people just happen to be non-heterosexual. I'm talking about in your face stuff. I remember all the rainbow picture tints for Facebook for people to ostentatiously show their support for the LBGT agenda(s). And I'm the one who "fixates on sex or sexuality"? The old days of live and let live and not wearing your opinions on your sleeve look long gone.

This is all like Arians accusing early Christians of fixating on the deity of Christ.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a proud Never Trump conservative, so nothing I am saying here says anything about how one should vote in the 2020 election, except "not Democrat."

I was a Never Trump from the 2016 primary and through the 2016 General Election. I voted 3rd party. But I wasn't in a Swing State.


Since then, given what Trump has done so far in his term, he has earned my vote in 2020. (As background, I was fairly disgusted that the GOP elected Trump because I bought into the liberal narrative that this was falling right into Hillary's hands. I.e., Trump was so unelectable that the Dems and Hillary *wanted* and *desired* Trump to win the GOP primary so that Hillary would win the 2016 election in a cakewalk.


I was greatly surprised that Trump won.

Now with regards to this post. Trump actually fits your profile of a *fighter." He is most emphatically not of the *genteel" variety country club Republican. He has spine and he fights back. Hard. I have to give it to him, even though I'm not really happy with his SCOTUS picks.

Anyways, I'm just looking at the data since inauguration, and he's more than earned my vote.

"What conservatives were trying to do in the 80s was not to build a Gnostic utopia but to restore some remote semblance of the sober, reasonable, and distinctly non-utopian vision of the American founders. And they were doing so not in any revolutionary way but by working as good citizens within the very mechanisms set up by the U.S. Constitution itself--electing people to public office, trying to pass Constitutional amendments, opposing bad constitutional amendments, pressing elected Presidents to appoint originalist rather than activist judges, etc. If this is Gnostic utopia building, I'm a monkey's uncle."

I agree with this but in hindsight I believe we made two large errors which contributed to our failure:

1) We failed to recognize that politics is in many ways downstream from culture, and thus we attempted to save the culture politically from the top down. Our concentration on partisan politics distracted us from necessary grassroots cultural work, and instead we largely took an "if-we-could-just-get-the-right-people-in-office!" approach that didn't touch the root of the problem.

2) We uncritically supported an economic system that at every turn undermined what we were trying to achieve culturally. While we rightly condemned the commodification of sex we failed to be bothered by the simultaneous commodification of everything else.

I say this as a person who was almost fully on-board with the "Christian Right" from the early 80's up to about 2006, and worked and voted accordingly, and is still a Christian and still on the Right.


An enemy may attack a castle or location not because it is weak but because it is strategically so valuable.
Of course. But a smart enemy always attacks the strategically valuable location where it is weakest. The Lord of Creation clearly said that the gates of Hell will not prevail against his church. But within a few seconds He also challenged His second-in-command for being entirely out-of-sync with the program. The same thing happens today. When Christians are obsessed with things that are not critical to the gospel, it is altogether "not having in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." Of course, we do it for the same reason that Peter did: as Bonhoeffer says, "we don't want to die." But the call of the gospel is μετανοεῖτε καὶ πιστεύετε (i.e., "re-evaluate our commitments"). The message to the churches in Revelation is a similar "renewing of our minds." We are called not just to oppose the forces of evil (swinging for Malchus' ear?), but to stand for different priorities than the forces of evil. Lydia does well to identify problematic trends in the Counter-Reformation... ones that had tragic implications unforeseen at the time by those involved. But equally problematic trends (please recall the chronology) existed in the western, Protestant church prior to the sexual revolution. And their unforeseen, tragic implications were that on the topic of sex and sexuality, the church was going to be largely humiliated, as we have seen. Was the church "right" about its position? Yes. Of course. Was it wise in the way that it turned approved sex and sexuality into a stand-in for righteousness? Certainly not.
Our concentration on partisan politics distracted us from necessary grassroots cultural work,

NM, I can't really agree about the time period I have in mind. Francis Schaffer made a huge difference to that for Protestants in that time period. And necessary cultural work was the reason why they were starting their own schools. It took place concomitantly with political work.

Lydia, in my prior comment above about Trump, I forgot to include what I originally intended to write. My thesis is that in the aspect of fighting *against* both the Forces of Evil and "The Genteel" you and Trump are a lot alike, lol! One is in the political arena, and one is in the Christian Church arena, and frequently the twain shall meet!

Eg., The Genteel are frequently derided and scoffed at by the Conservative Base as "RINOs." For example, John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Boehner, et al. Trump fights both the Dem Libs and the GOP Genteel. External and Internal Opposition.

You, fight against both the Dem Libs and the professing Christian Genteel. For example, Russell Moore, (recently deceased) Rachel Held Evans, (Radical) Two-Kingdom Theologians, etc... External and Internal Opposition.

Trump fights back. His base is loyal. And growing. A fair number of Undecideds see cowardice among the Genteel. Many Trumpsters will say that they support Trump BECAUSE ... He. Fights. Back.

Is this an oxymoron: Winsome Fighter. Christians, they fight against the Forces of Evil, and they fight winsomely. When Jesus tossed out the moneychangers, and called the Pharisees a Brood of Vipers, He did so winsomely, yes?

Anyways, summing up, and for a good chuckle: Lydia McGrew = = Donald Trump!

I am not amused.

But I appreciate your intention to compliment me.

;-)

Anyways, with regards to Blaming the Losers, I think you might find these two Scandinavian women in agreement with you, Lydia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=KhC-iYn0FZU

"You cannot understand the world only from a political view point. We are in a spiritual warfare and not just a political struggle, " says Iben Thranholm, Danish theologian and journalist, who strongly criticizes the anti-religious, illiberal elites for not respecting our traditional faith.

Thranholm states that: "It has become a taboo to speak about religion due to this anti-religious ideology that claims that religion has no value. As long as we remain in this spiritual crisis, I don't think Europe will be able to defeat Islam. The reason why Islam is so successful here is because we have a spiritual vacuum."

She states that Europe is in a deep, spiritual crisis as faith is subjugated, even if 75 % of the European population calls themselves Christians, not even counting the millions of European Muslims.
She claims that this stems from a Marxist thinking, stating that the world would be a much better place without Christianity. Thi is what the European elites are pushing for.

The Herland Report is a Scandinavian initiative presenting leading intellectuals' view on foreign policy, current affairs, religion, the Middle East, Western decadence - free from the censoring political correctness that now permeate Western media and its political propaganda.

The Herland Report is founded and hosted by Hanne Nabintu Herland, a Scandinavian historian of comparative religions, bestselling author, commentator and TV producer, known from the media for sharp analysis and fearless speech. Herland has for many years written extensively in leading newspapers on a variety of issues and appeared as a guest on a variety of TV shows. She was born and raised in Africa, has lived in South America and currently in the Middle East, and travelled extensively in Asia. She speaks a number of languages.

"I can't really agree about the time period I have in mind. Francis Schaffer made a huge difference to that for Protestants in that time period. And necessary cultural work was the reason why they were starting their own schools. It took place concomitantly with political work."

I realize that, having been a big Schaeffer fan in the 80's. But despite his influence I think that we had the proportion of the one vs. the other pretty much backwards. There was always this underlying idea that we could arrest cultural degradation by means of politics.

By the way, I think Michael Hanby's take on this issue is far more accurate than Horton's.

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/02/the-civic-project-of-american-christianity

There was always this underlying idea that we could arrest cultural degradation by means of politics.

Successful politics certainly helps! I think it's worth remembering how much of this *is* top-down. This is true on other issues as well. Think of how many states passed marriage protection amendments in the 90s. And then it was all swept away by the Supreme Court. The Roe decision has been a huge degrader of culture, and if it could have been reversed swiftly, much less degradation would have occurred. State laws were much more variable and some of them quite protective of the unborn child before Roe.

And look at the trans insanity. *Even after* many people didn't care about the homosexual issue they didn't want to be forced to call a man a woman. That is being forced from the top down as well.

Culture is surprisingly resilient. I'm not saying populism will save us. I'm saying not letting the liberal elites force their craziness on everyone would arrest a lot of cultural degradation.

But at the same time, I fear that some of the failures in the culture war can indeed be traced -- at least to some extent -- to historic Christian mistakes...

No doubt there WERE Christian mistakes. Every Christian who is still a sinner makes mistakes, and even those saints who succeed in avoiding being constant sinners in all serious matters still make less-than-perfect choices now and then, choices which lessen the success of Church in achieving the good.

But that's neither here nor there for the point being made. For example, the errors Christians made in the Church that called for reform, that created the environment that needed reforming men and women, led to the result that there would be reformers and their reforms. But those errors did not CAUSE the errors and sins of the reformers who rejected the good with the bad, or those reformers who went on to propose heresies in response to bad practices. Or those reformers who invented bad philosophy to justify rejecting bad practices. Similarly, a tactical mistake of French counter-reformers of allying themselves (and their arguments) with the skeptics, while being a mistake, is not the cause of late 20th century Christians failing to reverse the slide of our nation into moral degeneracy. That logic effectively leads to the conclusion that Adam's sin is "the cause" of our current state, and every later mistake is merely the (natural, implicit) unfolding the first sin and its fruit. So, the cause of the failure of conservatives to make cultural headway in the second Bush administration is really to be laid at the feet of Adam, not really at the conservatives of the Reagan years, or the not-successful-enough Christians of the post Reformation era to fully live Christianity, or the mistakes of the Church in the pre-Reform era, or the mistakes of the Church in the early medieval years, or in the patristic years, or in the apostolic years, or in the failures of the Jews to live according to the faith before the Babylonian exile, or... Nonsense.

C.S. Lewis put it much better in Screwtape's words. History as it is looked at by God who knows all past, present and future, and as looked at by angels (and demons) who, though they cannot see the future, can grasp the whole of the past, encompass it, and forecast probable trends vastly better than men can, and as looked at by men who can only see a small portion of the present and know reliably only a small portion of the past, are three different modes of understanding "the causes" of the present and its problems. While we strive to understand the present and make use of the past in doing so, we cannot hold ourselves to blame for not being angels or God, and with being stuck with merely human ability to forecast the future effects of our actions. Our strategies must necessarily partake of human limits, and can be spiritually pure and undefiled when aligned with Godly direction even when our choices are, in practical (and short-range) terms, going to be unsuccessful in achieving the results we intended. God lets even his saints run up against failures. The best efforts of the Apostles DID NOT prevent 300 years of persecutions causing untold murders of holy innocent Christians, nor (in a sense far worse) the apostasy of perhaps even more who recanted their Christianity in the face of mortal fear. 300 years of horrific results! Yet we do not charge the Apostles with terrible mistakes on their part that led to this state of affairs. The apostasy of Julian the Apostate is not laid at the door of St. Paul failing to trim his arguments "properly" (i.e. just so as to preclude Julian's errors) in his discourse to the Corinthians, or his preaching to the Ephesians.

Now that we have the 20th century available to look at as history, we can see that Satan had a long-range plan to attack THE FAMILY as an institution in its own right. But Christians of 1810 could not see that, indeed hardly as many as 2 of them could perceive even the possibility of attacking "the family" as a concept; so ingrained were they with the concept as a backdrop to their thinking that it would take an additional 100 years of bad philosophy to arrive at the conclusions of the early feminists who could imagine attacking the family itself. Certainly nobody in the pre-Reform, Reform, or Counter-Reform periods imagined an attack on the family itself - and therefore could not consciously gear up for that battle.

"Successful politics certainly helps!.....Culture is surprisingly resilient. I'm not saying populism will save us. I'm saying not letting the liberal elites force their craziness on everyone would arrest a lot of cultural degradation."

Absolutely. I'm not arguing for political quietism. I just think that we tended to make too much of the political to the detriment of the cultural, and it sort of backfired on us.

"No doubt there WERE Christian mistakes....But that's neither here nor there for the point being made."

I think there is a difference between blaming Christian mistakes for future errors and blaming them for certain culture war failures. For instance, I believe you can fault Christians for our weak-tea opposition to no-fault divorce, which led to a cultural weakening of the institution of marriage. This weakening in turn brought about an atmosphere in which SSM support could grow. But this doesn't mean that Christians' weak opposition to NFD brought about the acceptance of SSM in a direct sense. Our mistake didn't cause the error; it was already there. But it did help the error find room to grow.


"For example, the errors Christians made in the Church that called for reform, that created the environment that needed reforming men and women, led to the result that there would be reformers and their reforms. But those errors did not CAUSE the errors and sins of the reformers who rejected the good with the bad, or those reformers who went on to propose heresies in response to bad practices. Or those reformers who invented bad philosophy to justify rejecting bad practices."

Sometimes people who espouse an "ideas have consequences" take on history seem to be saying that such consequences were inevitable. But such inevitability only appears that way in hindsight, and the better historians of this sort realize this (and also say it).

Still, the rejection of granting inevitability to the process does not mean that it cannot or should not be traced at all. We can learn from past errors even if they were unintentional and "conditional," so to speak.

The Roe decision has been a huge degrader of culture, and if it could have been reversed swiftly, much less degradation would have occurred.

I would also add that the SCOTUS decision to make Homosexual Marriage legal in all 50 states has also been a huge degrader of culture.

This is not particularly insightful, but I think it is true...the main factor in the losing is simply overwhelming force.

That said, as of now, I'm not convinced the culture war has been truly lost. If it had been, faithful Christians and others who share our views with respect to human nature and sexuality would be truly as locked out of power and influence as the Uighurs are in China. We would also face some sort of systematic system to identify us so that we could be controlled and/or eradicated. When the north defeated the south, the north ensured the south could not fight again. If and likely when we truly lose, the same will be done to us and China is showing us how that can be done. Granted, it won't be exactly like China, but like China our churches and families both will be overseen in a way that we know who really calls the shots.

Thank you, Lydia. This is exactly right. As an aside, I wish conservative intellectuals would retire the word "gnostic" for a while, since it has come to mean anything we don't like (rather like "fascist" on the Left). There was nothing utopian about what the Religious Right fought for, and I don't think there is anything they could have done better to avoid being ridiculed and demonized by the media.

People often say that we should be focusing on the culture, but I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean aside from the political capitulation. Your mention of alternative schools is at least something concrete, which is more than I usually get from people who want to focus on the culture instead. Do they mean that we should be trying to take over the arts and sciences and mass entertainment? We don't have the Left's patronage, but with a hundred geniuses we might pull it off nonetheless. Still, calling for brilliance is not itself a brilliant strategy. You've got to fight with the army you've got. And anyway, if we want to convince people to trade secularism for Christianity, at some point we have to put forward an argument that we are right and they are wrong. We have to be divisive and push an unpopular opinion (because if Christianity only endorses conventional thinking, why not just stick with conventional secularism?) As you point out, the enemy picked the battleground for us, starting the fight over sex and refusing to let up on it.

Great article; enjoy Lydia's writing.

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