Monday, May 14, 2018

A Religious Dissident Right



Rod Dreher--who I don't agree with very much--put up an interesting article which I felt deserved far more comment in this corner of the Web.

What's the Matter with Orthodox Countries?

Rod opines on why Orthodox countries have relatively poorer economic performance than that of the West. Now, I don't really want to get into that debate now but wish to simply to show just how powerful an influence religion has in other areas not traditionally associated with it. Weber said the same thing with his work on the relationship between Protestantism and Capitalism.

From my perspective, religion is the structure upon which a culture is built.  Our current religion is Secularism with its essential belief in the irrelevancy of supernatural faith, and the pursuit through reason of health, wealth, pleasure and popularity. Our "slouch to Gomorrah" is primarily as a result of our ditching Christianity for Secularism.

I think it's a truism that politics is downstream from culture. Crappy culture pretty much ensures crappy politics and no matter how you rearrange the political structure it's always going to be a reflection of the prevailing culture. The U.S. founding fathers understood this in a way that Moldbug doesn't. Virtue matters.

This doesn't mean that Secularists can't be virtuous, whatever that means in a secular scheme, it just that virtue, as a Christian would recognise it is a statistical outlier, while in Christianity it is the statistical norm.

What this means that any restoration of the West--if it is going to have any continuity with the past--is going to have to rely on a restoration of Christianity.

The problem is that Christianity has been totally sideswiped by Modernism and has been unable to mount an effective offense against it.  Measures which aimed at "liberalising" the Churches so that they would become more "relevant" have proven to be self destructive failure. On the other hand "Traditionalist" doubling down has produced a few defiant outposts but no real growth. Religious capture of state power hasn't worked out in the long term. The "Benedict Option" so favoured by Dreher, works only under the assumption that the rest of society will leave you alone. Unfortunately militant secularism doesn't work like that. Defence does not win wars.

That 's why I think a revival of popular religion is the only long term solution. However a revival of the "old" religion is unlikely to be of any benefit since the old religion, even when it was popular and strong, proved unable to handle the onslaught of Modernism. What will be needed is something "new". And by "new", I don't mean some new or foreign religion to the West. Rather, it will be the old Christianity, practiced differently and with different emphasis.

Personally, I think this new religion is going to develop among the laity, since I feel that in the Catholic Church at least, the clergy are polarized into their respective ideological camps by temperament rather than reason, one group wanting novelty without intellectual rigor and other stuck with the fear that any change is error: whimsy and paralysis. What will unite both of them will be a an opposition to a religious Dissident Right.  The liberals will hate it for its attack on Kumbaya Christianity while the Trads will hate it for proposing any change at all.

If this group can reform Christianity we have a chance otherwise I don't see any way out at all.

15 comments:

c matt said...

The liberals will hate it for its attack on Kumbaya Christianity while the Trads will hate it for proposing any change at all.

That is a rather simplistic view of Traditional Catholicism. Trads don't hate every change, they only hate change to essentials, i.e., dogma. Trads are not against electric HVAC systems in church buildings, or driving to Mass (as long as it is a TLM). Trads are against allowing communion for the divorced and remarried, women priests, and other novelties that have basically destroyed Catholicism. If, as you propose, a return to Christianity is the only path forward to rebuild the West, then a return/revival of true Christianity (i.e., true Catholicism) is the only answer. A hegelian "synthesis" will only bring more of the same we have now (maybe slow the demise, but the direction unchanged).

Bruce Charlton said...

@SP - That is a good summary of exactly my own conclusions.

It isn't optimistic, because the probabilities are stacked against it; but it is hopeful, in the sense that it could happen at-any-moment if people *want* it to happen, if they make the necessary choices.

It's like The Fellowship of the Ring - the aim is a remote possibility, against hopeless odds; but with the aid of some Good people and Providence, it could happen. And it was the only viable option.

Of course Lord of the Rings is 'fiction' (albeit True fiction) - but the book shows how such a thing could happen. In principle.

Chent said...

I think you are onto something. IMHO, the new form of Christianity will not vary from the old form of Christianity in dogmas or essentials but in the way of living Christianity.

Speaking as a Catholic that has to suffer it every weekend (I think it is a punishment for my sins), the awful Novus Ordo mass has to go. The way of worship has to be more close to that of the Orthodox church: the ritual has to make you feel closer to God. The old Latin mass was good but it may need an update. Some Protestant churches have discovered new forms of worship that have proved to be effective too.

Even more important than that, we have to build Christian communities. Christianity thrived in a hostile world (pagan Rome) only because it was sheltered in communities. Christianity is not meant to be lived as an individual faith (read the Letters of Paul). This has only happened in the atomized West.

For example, the mass (or the Protestant or Orthodox services) is not meant to be a service where strange people met and don't know each other, like a film showing. It is meant to be the expression of the faith of a community (strangers are welcome, of course, but the core has to consist of people who know each other, who are friends, who are family, who gather in prayer groups and shared activities, with shared media and social networks). These communities must be close geographically (for example, the Catholics/Orthodox/Baptist of a neighborhood).

Surrounded by a million of anti-Christian messages (in media and in real life), Christianity won't survive as a constellation of isolated individuals who have to fight alone against the world with the only help of Church services (mass, confessions, weddings). It will survive when every Christian has a place with family, friends and acquaintances where he can live his faith. Christianity must not be independent from relationships. It must be the way in which relationships are lived.

The Social Pathologist said...

@cmatt

Trads don't hate every change, they only hate change to essentials, i.e., dogma.

The real problem is recognising what is an "essential change" and what is development of doctrine. Trads seem to have a real problem recognising the distinction. Take the divorce issue. From my perspective, viewed from a strict legalistic approach to doctrine, divorce is impermissible according to catholic teaching. Yet the old testament see's the "permitting" of divorce by the unchanging God of Aquinas. What gives?

Instead we abuse the annulment process--while claiming to uphold doctrine--to grant an "effective" divorce. We honor the form of the law if not it's spirit. i.e Pharasiasicsm.

@Bruce

If God wills it, it will happen. I can't think of any more miserable odds than putting up 12 Jewish locals against the might of Rome.

@Chent

I think you are onto something. IMHO, the new form of Christianity will not vary from the old form of Christianity in dogmas or essentials but in the way of living Christianity.

Yes, though I think there will need to be some further doctrinal developments. It's hard to develop a theology of the Body in an environment that is sympathetic to Neoplatonism.

Speaking as a Catholic that has to suffer it every weekend (I think it is a punishment for my sins), the awful Novus Ordo mass has to go.

I agree to a degree. Once again, a Neoplatonism that denies the body has hard time understanding or justifying the aesthetic forms that induce a sanctity type of response by our bodies. A lot of modern Art is meant to appreciated "cerebrally" while a lot of the traditional art forms were appreciated instinctively. i.e they spoke to our minds through the aesthetic effect exerted on our bodies which were then reflected in the mind.

Chent said...

@The Social Pathologist

Instead we abuse the annulment process--while claiming to uphold doctrine--to grant an "effective" divorce. We honor the form of the law if not it's spirit. i.e Pharasiasicsm.

Right. But it is the solution to generalize divorce? First, divorce destroys the traditional family and fuels feminism. Second, how do you understand Matthew 19:4-9? I am curious to know your ideas, because I don't see an easy answer.

It's hard to develop a theology of the Body in an environment that is sympathetic to Neoplatonism.

Agreed. I think JPII's theology of the body was an attempt in the wrong direction and product of a mind that radically misunderstands sexual relationships.

A lot of modern Art is meant to appreciated "cerebrally" while a lot of the traditional art forms were appreciated instinctively. i.e they spoke to our minds through the aesthetic effect exerted on our bodies which were then reflected in the mind.

Right. The Novus Ordo mass was not only cerebral and not aesthetic, but also conceived by intellectuals who greatly overestimated their intellect. It was the spirit of the 60s. They thought they were so superior to tradition that they imposed their half-baked mediocre ideas with disastrous results.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Chent

But it is the solution to generalize divorce? ............

No, generalising Divorce is not an option, though with our current annulment processes it might as well be.

As I understand it divorce is always and everywhere wrong, and sexual relations with a divorced person incurs the sin of adultery.

What interests me in this passage is Christ's explanation of the Mosaic "permission" for the practice, and whether or not the statement consists of a repudiation of the Mosaic custom or an explanation as to why it was permitted. If the latter is true, then it would appear that God takes into account circumstances when attributing culpability.

It's Catholic 101 to evaluate sin according to the act, intention and circumstances. While an act may be objectively evil, the circumstances may modify, if not eliminate, dessert altogether. What I'm saying is that although adultery is never ever right, there may be some circumstances where the punishment for the sin is not mortal. What differentiates the whore from the abandoned spouse when they remarry are the circumstances, not the sin.

My own view is that while adultery is never right God does understand our situation and gives us some slack in certain circumstances so as not to send us to Hell. This is not some carte blanche approval to sin rather a recognition of the reality of human frailties. The Mosaic practice was a recognition of this.

I think what Christ was trying to emphasise to the Apostles was that God does not approve of divorce but tolerates it because human beings are so thick.

I think that a large part of the Neoschalistic tradition assumes that every man is a moral philosopher. Thomas, on the other hand, recognised that most men were thick and that this has to be taken account of in the practical application of religious doctrine.

think JPII's theology of the body....

How do you think he misunderstood sexual relationships?

The Novus Ordo mass was not only cerebral ..... intellectuals who greatly overestimated their intellect.

And I might add the intellect of the public. Interestingly, as I child I went to both Croatian and English Novus Ordo masses. The Croatian ones never seemed to lack any dignity but that's because the priests there kept the mass simple with no modern embellishments. There were no overhead projectors, guitars, liturgical dances etc.

On the other hand, the local Catholic cathedral where I go to occasionally combines the Novus Ordo mass with latin chant/song. It's incredibly beautiful.

JHT said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple of years, not regularly but here and there, and I always find myself linking to your site regularly, specially when it comes to matters of sexual promiscuity. I hope you continue the good and valuable work.

Cheers from Portugal.

MK said...

SPOn the other hand "Traditionalist" doubling down has produced a few defiant outposts but no real growth.

You could say this about early Christianity; the long-term growth wasn't obvious at first. I see Trads growing like crazy, from all religious groups: Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, Amish; growing so fast they can't get enough space. We see Muslims taking over Turkey again, Mormons way up in Idaho now, and the Amish have made farmland too expensive and work in trades now.

Religious capture of state power hasn't worked out in the long term. The "Benedict Option" so favoured by Dreher, works only under the assumption that the rest of society will leave you alone. Unfortunately militant secularism doesn't work like that. Defence does not win wars.

But there is no "war" to win in my mind. Leave liberals alone long enough they kill themselves. It's far wiser to just ignore them into their dotage and go about enjoying your great-grandkids. This is the power of the BenOpt (not Dreher's version, but the idea).

And by "new", I don't mean some new or foreign religion to the West. Rather, it will be the old Christianity, practiced differently and with different emphasis.

Agreed.

Personally, I think this new religion is going to develop among the laity

Agreed. The clergy is trying to work within the old broken system which is DOA. They should be the vanguard of a new one. It's happening right now, with zero help from clergy. If anything, they try to eat the seed corn to prop up the old mess.

Trads will hate it for proposing any change at all.

Trads, to me, go about their business focusing on their own keep (while breeding like crazy to invest in tomorrow). Sure, most stick to older ways, but that makes sense since most new changes are damaging to the family, and the clergy don't care about the family. If anything, the new stuck-in-the-mud "Trads" are those people who are not traditional people nor liberals, but those stuck in modernity which is going nowhere (and this includes the clergy). Were the clergy to actually propose change that was conducive to Christianity, the family, and growth? Old-style "Trads" would be on board. But it's happening anyway in small groups without clergy.

The Social Pathologist said...

@MK

I think Trads appeal to a certain temperamental type, those who have a hard time handling ambiguity and like clear direction. Dysfunctional societies produce a lot of anxiety in people and hence their desire for a leader or system which reduces ambiguities.

The current return to "tradition", in my mind is strongly linked to the profound dysfunction of our societies. A lot of what fueled the Iranian revolution was the profound socio-economic dysfunction of 70's Iran. People thought that the Ayatollah was going to make their physical lives better. Same thing in Germany.

I see the Trad communities reaching a certain size but then stabilising. Rigidity appeals to some people, a lot of people find it too stifling.

But there is no "war" to win in my mind. Leave liberals alone long enough they kill themselves.

I think you've misjudged the situation. I'm all for you position if the liberals would leave us alone yet they never do. As some old wag said, you might not be interested in war but war is interested in you.

Trads, to me, go about their business focusing on their own keep

It's not the breeders that I'm against their free to live as they please, it's the system guardians, i.e. elements of the Clergy who have co-opted the system.

Were the clergy to actually propose change that was conducive to Christianity, the family, and growth? Old-style "Trads" would be on board.

I'm not sure they would be. For these guys development occurs along expected lines, novel approaches are profoundly unsettling.

Chent said...

How do you think he misunderstood sexual relationships?

In multiple ways, but I don't have time to go to all of them. For me, it set the bar too high. He seems to conceive sexual intercourse like a kind of sacrament where lovers should give themselves to each other with complete lack of selfishness and openness to the other person and to life. Of course, those of us who have had sexual relationships know that things are not like that. Although marriage is a sacrament, sexual intercourse can be a very practical matter. Like in a conversation between friends, of course you want the other partner to feel well but it is not that you are giving yourself like Christ gave himself to the world.

Then, he links "lack of selfishness" to "lack to contraception". IMHO, this move is not justified and it seems only an "adhoc" move to rationally justify the Catholic rule of avoiding contraception. "Lack of selfishness" means "being open to life", which means "the man cannot achieve orgasm without ejaculating inside the vagina".

I think the main error is that the goal of JPII (as it is publicly known) was to derive the Catholic rules about marriage and sexual intercourse without using religion, only starting from the facts and using non-Thomist philosophy to get to a natural law, which will be the same as Catholic law. In my opinion, the attempt isn't convincent and the reasoning is rather poor and inconsistent with previous Catholic tradition about sex but your mileage may vary.

Chent said...

I see the Trad communities reaching a certain size but then stabilising. Rigidity appeals to some people, a lot of people find it too stifling.

Well, given the fact that Tradition has lasted for millennia while Modernity has only reached the masses during the 60s (and look how perfecly is working), I think Tradition works well enough for the masses. A lot of people finding it stifling is only a consequence of being educated as liberal people.

If you see my hometown in Europe, you will see that Tradition is rapidly exploding while Modernity is slowly killing itself. Of course, the Tradition exploding is Islamic tradition but that's the way it is.

Eric Kaufmann's, "Shall the religious inherit the earth?" is a must-read. The book proves that not only religious will inherit the earth, but fundamentalist religious will inherit the earth

The Social Pathologist said...

@Chent

Very good comments.

Although marriage is a sacrament, sexual intercourse can be a very practical matter. Like in a conversation between friends, of course you want the other partner to feel well but it is not that you are giving yourself like Christ gave himself to the world.

Yep. There's an idealisation of sex which really doesn't correspond to the real world experience of it. It's the difference between a philosopher who contemplates sexuality as opposed to a lover who experiences it. I've got to admit that I find his (JPII's) argument contrived and very unconvincing, the natural law approach is far more rigorous in my opinion.

I think Tradition works well enough for the masses. A lot of people finding it stifling is only a consequence of being educated as liberal people.

I think only a few people can sustain a high level of religious intensity over a long period of time. Even "political religions" have had this problem. One of the problems for communist revolutionaries was getting people to maintain the zeal for communism. They "solved" this problem primarily through the notion of continuous revolution and the fear of subversives.

There's a very good book, "Peasants to Frenchmen" by Eugen Weber which has section on religion during the transitional period to Modernity in French society. The traditional French Catholicism prior to 1850's seemed to be far more tolerant of human foibles than the Jansenist-lite version which replaced it and started to alienate itself from the people.


MK said...

I think only a few people can sustain a high level of religious intensity over a long period of time. Even "political religions" have had this problem.

I think the problem with this view is it assumes a modernist view of religion, not a family-based one, like the Trinity.

For a thought experiment: is an Amish person full of "religious intensity"? I say no. Their religion is simply part of family, life, and the very air they breathe. Properly formed Trads are like this. Sure, there are some low-IQ fundies who become debased into religion, but there are also tons of normal to high SES trads too, who choose that way of life. For them, it's all about family, and that's attractive and low-key, not necessarily "intense".

measurable said...

Pentecostals are converting like crazy,especially in key places like China, i doubt the RCC will lead the pack of the church on the rise.

Pentecostals are quietly but furiously taking over the Christian world and they embrace strict social mores and enthusiastic worship.

If you want to know what new christianity will look like it's essentially already here. Think women in skirts, men in ties, less dancing and more loud worship services.

The Social Pathologist said...

@MK

I think the problem with this view is it assumes a modernist view of religion, not a family-based one, like the Trinity.

And yet it is the one promoted by my Church. There can never be enough "zeal". The exultation of mortification, pennance and prayer are predicated in a high level of religious intensity. And yes, I do think there is a modernist element at play.


For a thought experiment: is an Amish person full of "religious intensity"? I say no. Their religion is simply part of family, life, and the very air they breathe.


That's a good point. But what the Amish have had to do is reject material modernity in order to sustain this way of life. The industrialisation of the West was as much of a solvent to traditional religion as the heretical philosophical arguments. Part of the reason why I feel that Church is on the back foot is operates on a model that "works" in traditional agrarian communities but fails in industrial ones. This is one of the reasons why I feel that successful religious practice in an industrial age will be different to that of an agrarian one.

"Low intensity" religion is probably the best bet in the long run but the trick is how to form one in an industrial/urban environment.

@measurable

Pentecostals are converting like crazy,especially in key places like China, i doubt the RCC will lead the pack of the church on the rise.

I think you're right. The shift to Protestantism in these countries and South America is driven by more than just a belief in Christ. Christianity is seen as a path to success and Protestantism--in my opinion, rightly--is more of a material success than Catholicism. As I see it the success of the Pentecostals is driven by their more "intuitive" approach to religion and catering to peoples needs rather than Catholicism which has a stronger intellectual tradition, thereby alienating the masses.