On the Failures of Materialist Conservatives
Or Why Atheists Cant Do History...
As I strolled along the High Hay--Autumn in Buckland really is a lovely thing--the following thoughts came to me. I am reading a book. I will not tell you what the book is called because it has not been released yet, and so I would be doxing myself if I told you what it was called. Here is what you need to know about the book: 1. It is written by a secular person 2. About a very religious historical person 3. About why they did what they did. Can you guess what my objections might be to this book?
For the record, it is an excellent book. But time and time again the author attributes the subject’s behaviour to something (that is ultimately reducible to the subject’s religious views), and never does he (the author) consider that the subject might be thinking what he is thinking because, at root, he believes in God.
And this is not the first time I have encountered this problem. I cannot tell you how many accounts of the Crusades, especially the 1st and 3rd (the real Crusades [I repudiate the 4th crusade in the strongest terms--it being the shame of Western Christendom]), in books, tv shows, movies, radio, some purely historical and some fictionalised, describe the Crusaders as cynical actors who destroyed the beautiful flowering civilisation of the Islamic Levant. Not many modern historians seem capable of imagining that the Crusaders went on the Crusades because they actually believed, or that they were defending a beautiful civilisation against barbarians, who despite being able to do algebra were still barbarians.
On this specific point about the Crusades, and the portrayal of the Medieval in general as a terrible time, Protestants, of which I am one, must bear much of the blame. Much hay was made of the fact that Europe was Catholic during these times. To Protestants, Catholics have long-equated to being bad, and so they wrote unfavourable histories of the era. It has been argued that that titan of (the writing of) history, Gibbon, an atheist but certainly a cultural Protestant, made many anti-Catholic points throughout his Decline and Fall. Some Protestants have been outright hostile to the Crusades in particular. As a Protestant I believe we can claim ownership of the good things that happened before the Reformation. And I certainly have no objection to Christendom taking up arms to defend itself from Islam. The Crusades look aggressive if one takes a very narrow time slice of history. If you zoom out to include the previous 400 years, they resemble more of a counter-offensive, something Patton would have called ‘active defence.’ But more realistically, and making the Crusaders look even better, they were taking back what belonged to Christendom.
Incidentally, the one historian that does do justice to the Crusades, and the Medieval era as well, is Rodney Stark. An unabashed Catholic (no one is perfect), he makes a proper case for the Crusaders as Christians in God’s Battalions.
The Failure of Modern Conservatism
Here’s a related point. Modern Conservatism has failed us. Why? Because it has lost touch with it’s Burkean roots. Necessarily, from a Burkean perspective, Christianity, or at least religion, must be involved with society. The knowledge of God and impulse for man to organise himself into society are both connected to our passions (the latter being contra Rousseau). Taking God out of things symbolises an inability to properly engage with one’s passions. If one cannot properly engage with one, it's likely, and indicative of, an inability to engage with the others, that is those that produce society. So from a Burke-informed perspective, atheists will not be able to produce society, or at least not a proper functioning one.
The Modern Conservative has fled from religion. He may be religious as an individual, but he has abandoned a societal disposition towards religion. It is embarrassing to hear Americans talk about the separation of Church and State, because when they do, they betray their total and utter ignorance on the topic.
If there is one historical period Americans should learn about it is the English Civil War. Over a century before the idea of an independent America ever entered anyone’s head, the English fought their civil war and eventually beheaded their king (we did it before it was cool, ok France?). There are many continuities between the principles fought over between 1642-1651 that are picked up in the American Revolution. (Incidentally I have heard it argued that the American Civil War is the last in a trilogy of Anglo ‘Rights’ wars.)
Out of the English Civil War came the idea of ‘Separation of Church and State” but in today’s language it should be translated as “Separation of the State from the Church” by which I mean stopping Parliament from being able to legislate on religious affairs. That is to say KEEPING THE STATE OUT OF THE CHURCH! It never crossed their minds that anyone, for any reason, other than to perform some inconceivable act of perfidy would ever want to keep the Church out of the State. “It is and was an essential part of civic life, and long may it ever be so” the 17th century Englishman would have said.
The idea of keeping the Church out of the functions of the State is, therefore, probably the single greatest bastardisation in the Anglo-world to yet happen. Of course the Church should be involved in education and healthcare. Only sometime in the last 200 years did the idea of the state providing these things even occur to anyone. The Church has thousands of years of experience in these areas. Getting rid of it ejected thousands of years of cultural memory (Note to Jeff: what am I thinking of here? Corporate jargon about making culture in a company?).
However, there is now a diabolic meaning to the American conception of separation of church and state, even if it did not exist in the original usage of it. American Christians that try to argue that America is a Christian nation exhibit unprecedented levels of cope. They were founded by a bunch of deists that rejected their divinely-ordained Christian king for a tawdry little republic... No amount of disdain is enough for a Christian to heap onto a republic. (‘Tis better to serve in heaven than rule in hell.) They even wrote reassuring letters to Mohammadan pirates telling them that America has no established religion!
Now I do not doubt for a minute that the success of America was thanks to Christianity, but that virtue and prosperity which accompanies conforming oneself to God’s will (something that was done by many Americans from 1776-1945), was preyed upon by a ruling elite for their own purposes. The proper comparison to America is the Ottoman Empire, with its lazy, fabulously wealthy potentates, reclining and being fed grapes by their harems, while enabled by the industriousness and brilliance of the Christian and Jewish dhimmis, who were often the only ones the Mohammadan rulers trusted to administer anything properly. A Christian or Jew was not a threat to their position, and could be treated more harshly if they became corrupt. A fellow Mohammadan was more likely to skim off the top and plot against the person he owed his position to. So like the Ottomans, America was/is not Christian, but it certainly benefited tremendously from being a parasite on an enslaved Christian people.
American Christians that continue to cling to ‘Murica’ are ultimately serving two masters. The Englishman, the Norwegian, the Prussian, do not have this problem. His rightful King, who might not currently be ruling over him, is a Christian, divinely ordained by God to sit on a throne and rule on behalf of God. The Norwegian Christian is serving God, but also has a God-appointed magistrate administering his nation, so he does not have to deal with the cognitive dissonance that the American Christian has to. (This is not to say this state of affairs properly exists in England or Norway currently, but if England and Norway were to adhere to their principles there would be no conflict for the Christian in being Norwegian or English. America adhering to the principles on which it was founded presents an identity which is ultimately mutually exclusive with the Christian identity.)
Put another way, America is the birthplace of the Technocracy.
So, the modern conservative that nods along with the 21st century American understanding of “Separation of Church and State” isn’t conserving anything!
This well-meaning individual Christian resembles Thatcher or Reagan. Thatcherism, the example I'll work with given Thatcher’s legacy being the more controversial in her country than Reagan’s is in his, would have been a much more coherent system in the 1700’s. But by the 1980’s the institutions that would have allowed for Thatcherite policies to create a thriving country were not there. Yes, Thatcher greatly improved the economy, but at great social and civic costs, and not everyone partook in that economic boom. These social and civic areas had been in decline since 1914, more or less. So, there was far less social and civic rope to pick up the slack created by the economy. Disaster for many communities ensued. The North of England is still playing catchup, whereas at one point it was the industrial powerhouse of the world. It does not matter that Thatcher, and Reagan, were committed Christians on the personal level. She operated a policy that Britain was no longer suited to.
Meanwhile, the ‘conservative’ that is an atheist is such a twisted and perverted creature he almost does not deserve mentioning. But here I will compare him to Gollum. He used to be a wholesome creature not too different from me, an honest Hobbit, but now has lived in the dark and fed off poisonous little goblins, all the while being perverted by an unadulterated ‘power,’ in the form of the ring. Let me translate that for you: The atheist conservative partakes in a tradition that was once good and wholesome but has turned himself away from what life is really about to living in the sewer of pure economics, and his only ideology is a self-seeking will to power a la Nietzsche. Bilbo does use the Ring of Power but as Tolkien puts it in the introduction to The Fellowship of the Ring he uses it ‘chiefly for the benefit of his friends.’ But I will save that for an essay on the proper uses of power. I'm sure some of you will be able to come up with something anecdotal to undermine this example, and if you do, please, go write your own substack and don’t tell me about it.
This creature therefore will willingly produce a society that is vicious and bloodthirsty. Thatcher, one hopes, would have changed her policies if she had only known what they would produce (I’m giving her, as a Christian, the benefit of the doubt in a big way).
Buckland Border Patrol
What does this mean for those who would enter Buckland? One must be actively Christian, and not just on a personal, Sunday morning level. How this looks for Christian politics or governments or policies, I have not yet fully thought out my position on. I will say I am very sceptical of the idea of a Christian politician in the 21st century. Going into the current milieu of politics seems like a surefire way of undermining one's relationship with the divine to me. At the end of the day, I think a Christian politics looks like Buckland. But that means being politically inactive. Unplug from the technocracy, deny it oxygen, make less money, shrink the tax base. What I'm saying is that it's better to be a labourer in Buckland than a lawyer in Mordor feeding Sauron power.
But, if you are not Christian you cannot come into Buckland. It's not because of any tyrannical anti-anything-but-Christian attitude I have. It's because Buckland does not physically exist. It may never physically exist. It is more of an attitude or a disposition at this point and may forever remain so (until of course God comes back, as I expect heaven to strongly resemble the Shire, Buckland being the rougher alternative I hope to achieve until that point). And Buckland follows on from a Christian attitude. It is necessary but not sufficient to be a Christian to enter Buckland. (Every intelligent man should be familiar with the basics of logic, and necessity and sufficiency are the first thing to learn. I will not tell you about them here, but you should take it upon yourself to investigate these things yourself.)
There is no perfect era of history. But there were many periods that did certain things better than we do today. I would like to keep the penicillin and recapture the good things of yesteryear. And as I see it, all the good things that we have lost flowed from the fountainhead of us being part of the Bride of Christ, the Church. The bad things we have today are because of the abandonment of that. Material benefit is tied in with our values and therefore with God. But there is a lag in the culture and in the benefits culture passes on to the economy. I think we are starting to feel that now.
Being a true Conservative is as much about being historically disposed as anything else. The atheist cannot engage with history properly. Therefore, they cannot be a conservative. They might limp along as a Libertarian or a Fascist, but they cannot enter into the sunny fields on this side of the High Hay. I do not hate them for this, so much as pity them. They are far more closely related to the Left or the Technocracy in this regard than anything to do with economics might otherwise suggest.
Being in communion with the one true God unlocks a perspective unavailable to you otherwise. This includes, but is not limited to, history. If one examines these events, the Crusades, the English Civil War, the American founding, the Reaganite/Thatcherite revolutions, one unlocks an objectivity and insight that is not available to the atheist or agnostic or anything other than Christian.
Now if this clarity is given to us when looking at history, what insights might we gain when looking at politics, ethics, economics, justice, the family, biology, chemistry, physics . . . (the list is only as long as the list of all possible areas of knowledge could possibly ever exist). Imagine the level of thriving Man would experience if he collectively submitted himself to Christ. Those individuals who have, already know the work that Christ is capable of accomplishing in the heart and soul of those who submit to him. And we, Christians, know that this situation will come about one day, we just need to be patient. And so Christians can anticipate and have clarity about the future in the same way that we do about history, because we are Christians and because we have an objectivity from which to observe the unfolding of time.