This is a picture of Alexander Solzhenitsyn at the Gulag. You can watch the video here. It’s important.
After spending several wonderful days in London, I arrived in London late last night feeling recharged. I’ve had the worst year of life, and I was reminded in London that my friends are inordinately blessing me. I spoke in London about Living Not by Lies — lessons Christians can learn from the communist underground churches. These lessons can be applied to your own situation. One of the three main lessons I learned is the importance of small groups and their sustainability. In my reporting for the book I heard many times from dissidents that they couldn’t have survived without small groups. Jan Chrysostom Korec (subterranean Slovak Catholic bishop, later cardinal), told his followers that while the state can take everything, the only thing it cannot take is the small group of faithful. This is something I have come to appreciate deeply over the last few days. Through making new friends and renewing friendships, I was able to make new connections in London. You can overcome anything if you have people who love and support you. It was true for people living under totalitarianism. How much more must it be true for us? As I was making my morning coffee, a revised Auden line came into my mind. You will love the broken neighbor/With a broken heart.
As I flew back to Budapest, my mind was trying to figure out what the election day meant. I believe it would have been a Red Wave if Donald Trump had not been involved. Although he did a lot for conservatives in 2016, he is now a huge liability. True MAGA supporters won’t be able to accept this, but it is true that there are many Americans who will vote Republican and even vote for Trumpist policies. However, they won’t vote Trump or Trump-adjacent politicians. It is easy to see why. This is easy to understand.
Aaron Renn is a Calvinist public intellectual, best known for his “three Worlds of Evangelicalism model. He writes about the shocking repudiation pro-life advocacy during this election.
This is yet another sign that we live within the “negative world“. Conservative Christians must understand that most people don’t agree with their social views. This is why the culture war approach is outdated. For many people who have been used to seeing themselves as the “moral majority”, this will be a difficult adjustment.
This election is a clear sign that the MAGA movement in America has run out of gas. Paul Gottfried once stated that conservatism was essentially a journalism project. It was a collection op-ed writers and not policy people or serious academics.
Similar to the above, MAGA can be described as a social media influencer organization. It has been long on e-celebrities, rhetoricians, but short on competent, serious people who can deliver results. In this election, the MAGA/Trumpy candidates who performed poorly in competitive races were most of them. JD Vance won the Ohio Senate race, but was badly outperformed by Republican Ron DeWine’s gubernatorial campaign.
DeSantis is a fascinating case study in post-MAGA political theory. He was aware of the inpopularity and limitations of the consensus status quo. He took strong action against consensuses that were popular, while generally avoiding those that weren’t. Child transgenderization, for example, is not popular. However, the majority of people want abortion legal. He signed a 15-week ban on abortion, which appears to be in line with public opinion.
Retrospectively, he was also one of the most effective governors of major states during the pandemic. Florida’s death rate was somewhere in the middle of this group, according to me. His decision to keep schools open was in line with the accepted wisdom of what should have been done everywhere. He also kept business open, which allowed Florida to reap the benefits of the changing landscape. South Florida has seen a lot of high-end venture capital and high-finance – even from the ESG-promoting BlackRock. It took a lot of courage and DeSantis was ridiculed by the media for two decades. They refuse to give credit to him even though he took his position.
He seems to have also handled the recent hurricane quite well. Although it’s not something he did personally, Florida appears to be the gold standard in running elections. It has its results very quickly. This is a significant improvement on 2000. He seems competent.
DeSantis lacks charisma and natural charm like many politicians. It is not clear how his approach or DeSantis will be received outside of Florida. He has shown that a strong Republicanism, which stakes out the popular post-MAGA positions and which displays courage and the ability to get things done, can be extremely popular. This shows the divergent fortunes between traditional religious conservatism, and a possible postChristian, post-MAGA Republican Party.
Aaron posted this on Substack newsletter. He has a special this-week subscription offer. Even if you are not a Christian, I recommend that you sign up. Aaron is a smart man and doesn’t hesitate to share the hard truths with his fellow Christian conservatives.
He also points out the divergence in religious conservatism’s interests from those of the “post Christian, post-MAGA Republican Party”. This is something older Christians have difficulty understanding — I’m referring to the idea that politics are not the answer. Do not misunderstand me. I mean, everyone misunderstands me. But, let me make a plea: It isn’t an either/or. It is not “throw yourself into politics” or “go for the hills.” There are no hills to climb. We are stuck in this situation, regardless of whether we want it or not. Christians and other traditionalists have to be as political as possible, and prepare our communities and ourselves for the dark and difficult days ahead. There is no other choice. I told someone in London that it was so much more enjoyable to be with younger Christians (under 50) in Europe and the UK discussing this stuff. They live in more advanced postChristian societies and can see how difficult it is and will be. Americans aren’t quite there yet. American Christians would be well advised to seek out British and European Christians who are serious in their faith.
The trans issue is, for me, more important than abortion. It is the most pressing issue facing Christians today. According to my knowledge, Wes Yang isn’t a Christian or a conservative. However, he has been an outspoken opponent of America’s transing. His Twitter account contains stories from detransitioners detailing how they were tricked and lied to. This was his tweet after the election.
I am where he is. One of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen is this campaign to seize young people from their bodies, to mutilate and deceive them and to sideline parents. Yet, very few seem to care. The GOP doesn’t seem to care. Chris Rufo, Matt Walsh, and Ron DeSantis have done more than any GOP politician to reverse this evil, except for Ron DeSantis, and now the governor and legislators of Tennessee, where Walsh resides. It’s amazing to me that Republicans haven’t made this a major issue — not because they think it will win them votes but because it is so evil. How many pastors make a big deal about it? How many pastors are trying to explain to their congregations why this is bad and how they can stop it from happening? How many people want to hear this? This is what it means for a country to be post-Christian. This is what it means that you have bought the modern belief that the world, and especially the human body is meaningless matter, upon which we can impose any will without limit. Many Christians have bought into the story and don’t know enough about the faith to understand their actions. A friend of mine in the Evangelical ministry texted me yesterday to tell me that he had spoken with about 60 students from an Evangelical college at a large Southern university and was stunned to discover that none knew anything about the Bible or the faith. They were all completely new. They were not born that way. This is what their grandparents and parents did to them. Because we believe too much in politics, we Christians have created a generation without chests. We wonder why they are willing to become women and men without breasts.
Do you think Pope Francis’s “synodal”, a church of “inclusivity”, and “accompaniment”, is going to make Catholics more resistant? This column is by Gavin Ashenden a former Anglican priest who is now a Catholic. This is what he saw in his church’s former church and now he is sounding the alarm. Excerpt:
In the world of Anglicanism the essential part of the leftist sociological takeover of the church was almost always accompanied with the promise that the Holy Ghost was very much part the project. The progressives mistakenly believed that the spirit of the age was the Holy Spirit at the end. Ex-Anglicans have seen this tactic used to create division and destruction once before. They want to share their experiences with the Church’s integrity.
This problem may be due to the Synodal Way’s particular theological worldview. One could distinguish many aspects of the historic spirituality arena: clergy and lay, religious or secular; faithful and unfaithful, nominal and observant; ethical and moral; activists and pietists, etc.
The Synodal Way, if your supporter is a critic, has rigged (or configured) the conversation in advance by imposing “excluded” and “included” categories. These are meant to be variations of those with power and those without power. If the Church’s traditions were more closely followed, we would be more interested in the categories of those with faith or those without power.
We have been pushed out of the realm of Christian spirituality to that of Marxist power play. The Synodal Path has been a study of “alienation.” This is the return to identity politics, where your group’s virtues (or lack thereof) take precedence over your personal virtue. This conversation is for you if you feel marginalised, excluded, or alienated.
It’s happening right now to Catholics. There are movements among some theologians, activists, and members of my Orthodox Church to see the same thing happen in our own church. A young Russian Orthodox believer told me recently that Russia is not a Christian country. According to him, the influence of Western pop culture on gender ideology and other issues will be strong in 20 years. As did Polish Catholics his generation, he said that Western pop culture is the most powerful way to instill moral imagination among the youth. This is exactly what the senior Catholic leadership is doing. According to my knowledge, many Orthodox leaders prefer silence and incomprehension. A Nigerian Anglican bishop said, surprise, that Africa requires Benedict Option thinking when he spoke at a Benedict Option conference held in Massachusetts two years ago. The minds of Africa’s youth are being colonized by Western pop culture. It is distributed via global social media networks.
A friend sent me this amazing post-election thread by someone I don’t know. It all starts like this:
It’s all there. I just followed @mallardreborn and I look forward to reading what else he has.
In the thread, he points out that Generation Z is completely in the pockets of Democrats. This has been obvious for a long time. Eric Kaufmann, a political scientist, wrote earlier this year that surveys showed that a majority of Americans aged under 30 support “cultural socialism”. This is an illiberal leftism which rejects traditional liberties such as freedom of speech and religion. However, it can offend sacred victim group. Kaufmann told me this spring that conservatives who don’t prioritise fighting the culture war will soon be unable to express their beliefs and practice their faith freely as a democratic majority will not tolerate it.
I think back to the young Christian blank-slatists my Southern pastor friend encountered recently. Although they are superficially Christian, these young people know very little about their faith. They won’t make it, which is what the Boomers and older Xers did to them. They are now adults and can take responsibility for their own actions. I met a young lady in London who is not a conservative but has been red-pilled to Christianity by the madness of the sexual revolution. Although she isn’t a Christian, she is close to becoming one. The church — the true church, not the woke simulacrum — offers sanity and is a refuge for her. One of my UK Christian friends, Millennials, told me that many people who were not raised in any religion are now drawn to Christ.
As a Christian, Louise Perry’s book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is a must-read. Not as a Christian, she got to orthodox Christianity as a feminist who was appalled at the Sex Rev’s actions to women, children, the most vulnerable, and others. My teenage daughter requested a copy so that she could see the truth of what her parents had taught her about the body and the meanings of sex and marriage.
As I wrote in The Benedict Option and in the 2013 TAC essay “Sex After Christianity,” sex is an extremely, very important issue regarding the social order. Philip Rieff was a secular Jewish sociologist and social criticism who wrote that the Christian sexual ethic made the early church unique. He said that Christians leaders cannot see this, but that they will abandon it as an ideal in the future. It’s written now in fire in heavens. The TAC piece didn’t mention transgenderism because it was a minor phenomenon at the time.
Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton, the new president, stepped on a political minefield when he attempted to fulfill his campaign promise to allow gay soldiers to openly serve. The issue of same-sex marriage was not a popular cause. It was three years before the Defense of Marriage Act was passed and four years after Ellen DeGeneres’s first prime-time appearance.
It was then that history will refer to as a cultural revolution. We are now entering the final phase of the fight over gay rights and what it means to be homosexual. Conservatives have been defeated in court and in increasing numbers in the courtroom of public opinion. It is common belief that opposing same-sex marriage is only for religious or rank bigotry reasons. Neither of these arguments–the argument goes – has any place in determining laws and public standards.
As older Americans leave the scene, the magnitude of the defeat suffered will be even more obvious. According to poll after poll, homosexuality is accepted by young people. However, gay marriage is not a big deal for older Americans.
This is a far bigger issue than most people realize. It’s also a reason that even staunch opponents of gay rights can’t understand. In 1993, The Nation published a cover story that identified the gay-rights cause to be the keystone and summit of the culture war.
The gay struggle encompasses all the current liberation struggles. While the gay moment may be reminiscent of other communities’ past experiences, it is also unique in that it encompasses all aspects of today’s liberation struggles. It is not certain that the changes will be easy. It’s possible, however, that America will be transformed by a small, disregarded sexual minority.
They were correct, and although the term “cosmology” might seem philosophically lofty to some readers, its current use seems downright prophetic. If the Christian cosmology was still in use, then the struggle for rights of “a small and disregarded sexual minority” would have failed. In other words, gay-rights has been successful precisely because the West’s Christian cosmology has disappeared.
The new order is being shattered by same-sex marriage. The Nation‘s triumphalist rhetoric of two decades ago is not too ripe. The radicals understood what was at stake better than many, especially bourgeois apologists to same-sex marital as a conservative phenomenon. America’s future will be forever changed by gay marriage, and it is only now that these changes are visible. It will make America less Christian, for better or worse. It is already doing this.
Trans just advances the argument to its natural conclusion. Any Christian readers who believe that Obergefell can be repealed or would be effective should remember that many Americans do not want abortion to become illegal and freely available. It would take nearly a day for each state to pass same-sex marriage legislation if Obergefell was overturned. We are no longer the country we were. We are post-Christian. The fact that many Americans identify themselves as Christians (something that isn’t true for Gen Z) is a sign of how shallow and superficial the faith is.
This is the Benedict Option. I’ve heard from many Christians that they no longer believe I am an alarmist. The most striking sign of post-Christian times to me is what Wes Yang sees. This monstrous experiment is being conducted on America’s youth, and it is being directed and executed in great detail by a network containing the most powerful individuals in American society. There has been little resistance. All power to the Matt Walshes, and Chris Rufos around the world! They do a tremendously important job and I support them 100%. This stuff must be fought politically as much as possible. There are many victories.
These victories are temporary if the culture is not changed. The future is not predetermined. You have the option to choose between life and death. It is possible to change the minds and hearts of people, and save cultures. The churches of today are largely ineffective. Either they don’t see the negative world or are unwilling to confront facts and implement change. We don’t have priests or bishops being held in prison, as was the case under Soviet communism. Worse, religious leaders are giving up their courage when they don’t feel compelled. My message to believers: Don’t wait to be led! It is unlikely that it will happen. It’s unlikely to happen. Educate yourself and form small faith communities and networks so that you have the best chance of raising your children in faith and enduring the future. This is what I discuss in The Benedict Option as well as Live Not By Lies. This wave of chaos and darkness does not mean we have to be passive. There are things that we can do and work together. I recall a pastor who, a few years back, told me that he would not discuss gender ideology with his congregation. He didn’t want the church to become divisive and to introduce “politics.” This man will have to answer to God for leaving his flock undefended. Thank God that you are part of a church where the clerical leadership has been active, courageous, and aware. If not, find one or start a small Ben Op/LNBL group within your congregation.
The Benedict Option I focus on the Tipi loschi. This large community of orthodox Catholics all go to the same parishes in their Italian cities, but they created it years ago because they realized that their children would need more to be able to continue to be Christians in this post-Christian world. Father Cassian Folsom was the prior at the Benedictine monastery in Norcia (St. Benedict’s birthplace). He introduced me to this community and said that any Christian family who wanted to survive the storm would need to be part of such a community.
It is too late. What are you going do? This is hard. Louisiana was the worst place for me to attempt something like this. Although I can understand why it didn’t work in my case, that doesn’t stop me from supporting the idea which is sound. Now that I am in Budapest, I must figure out how I can work within the boundaries of my culture and place. Is there anything else? Friends are important! Because of the solid Christians I met in England, I am now on a spiritual high. They are men and women who see the difficulties ahead of us and want to face them together with hope and courage. They are my ally! They are mine! We must find one another. We must practice together Father Kolakovic’s strategy for the Slovak Catholic underground Church founder: See, Judge and Act.
The future is difficult. This is the clear testimony of those who were part the underground church during Soviet times. Individual Christians must be willing to suffer. Our mission is to live with hope, courage and love through all that lies ahead. We also want to provide arks to rescue people from the current flood of liquid modernity. If you’ve dismissed the Benedict Option in the past, I encourage you to reconsider it and get busy being part of a creative minority while you still have time. Today, I am addressing my audiences that we are living in the Kolakovic Moment in West. Father Tomislav Kolakovic arrived at Bratislava in 1943 to escape the Nazis. In his classes, he told Catholic students that although the Germans would lose the war, the Soviets would rule the country. The Soviets also promised to persecute and control the Church. He began to build small resistance groups — groups that prayed, studied, deliberated, and worked together to strengthen the bonds between faith and people to make them more resilient. It was not something the Catholic bishops in Slovakia wanted to hear. They said he was being alarmist. Father Kolakovic didn’t stop them. Thank God that it did. Everything happened exactly as he had promised. The Kolakovic network was the backbone for the underground church.
Today, Christians are just like the Catholics in Slovakia in the mid-1940s. Our freedom will not last forever like theirs. We can see the future. We must know what’s ahead. We don’t believe politics will save us. Nor do we believe Christianity as it is — comfort, winsomeness and conformity — will suffice. We have a sacred obligation to see, judge, and act, even if we remain politically engaged if only for religious liberty. God will hold each of us accountable for our actions and omissions. It will not suffice to blame priests, bishops, or pastors. This is a radical responsibility for all of us: to our children, our families, our neighbors and God. We all have a responsibility. Me. You. You.
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The greatest lie American conservative Christians can believe is that everything will be okay again if they just keep doing the same thing now and then wait.
By the way: If you purchase Living Not By Lies now — it is just out in paperback — here’s a link for a free, downloadable study book to help you and your group see, judge and act.
UPDATE I forgot to mention that I had a troubling conversation with two Christians in London about the possibility of American Christians of Right turning towards fascism to cope with despair and the “cultural socialist” Left. This is a warning sign. Malick’s film a Hidden Life explains how Christians can be seduced and manipulated by fascism. It is about the life of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter who was a martyr to Nazism. In that man’s Austrian Catholic parish, everyone was a Catholic. Only Franz and his family stood firm against Nazism. Everyone else gave in. His story teaches us a valuable lesson. It is confusing that the Left labels any interest in tradition or family as “fascism”. Fascism is real, anti-Christian, and we will lose our people if we Christians do not offer our children, our families, and communities an authentically Christian alternative.