It turns out that Matthew Rose of First Things has expanded his series of essays into an entire book about the anti-Christian “far right” called After Liberalism: Philosophers of the Radical Right.
“I have been meaning for a while to write about one of the best books I’ve read this year: Matthew Rose’s A World After Liberalism: Philosophers of the Radical Right. Rose is not on the radical right; he’s a Catholic and the director of the Berkeley Institute, and a contributor to First Things magazine. In fact, a superb 2019 essay he wrote for First Things about the far-right journalist and essayist Samuel Francis forms the basis for his new book.
Rose’s new book profiles some of the leading contemporary thinkers of the radical right, showcasing why they appeal to some people today. He neither lionizes them nor demonizes them, though he certainly does not whitewash their beliefs. What’s so valuable about this book — you’ll get this if you read the Sam Francis essay linked above — is that Rose looks at these figures squarely and fairly, and explains why they matter today. You don’t have to like any of them, but you need to know who they are and what they thought. …”
I’m familiar with Matthew Rose.
A few years ago, I criticized an article that he wrote called “The Anti-Christian Alt-Right.” At the time, I pointed out that the Alt-Right largely agreed on race, but was divided on Christianity. There has always been Christians, pagans and atheists in White Nationalist circles. The same is still true today with people like Richard Spencer or Greg Johnson representing only one point of view.
Matthew Rose’s book features a chapter on Sam Francis. It doesn’t feature a chapter on my father-in-law, Gordon Baum, who ran the Council of Conservative Citizens and who was a close friend of Sam Francis and was a devout Lutheran until the day he died. The idea that being pro-White is incompatible with being a Christian struck my father-in-law as absurd. He was raised in St. Louis at a time before the Civil Rights Movement when it was common for pastors to include blacks among “the beasts of the field.”
This had changed in his lifetime. He saw the “antiracist” revolution happen much like we have seen “gay marriage” and “gender fluidity” percolate out of the dominant mainstream secular culture and creep into the churches in our time. It wasn’t always that way. It is just that contemporary elite intellectual fads which get started in the media and universities infect all institutions including the churches. There is nothing about churches as institutions which prevents them from being corrupted like all other institutions.
Conor Grubaugh of First Things took exception to my criticism of Rose and wrote an article in response called “The Impossibility of Alt-Right Christianity” which largely ignores the history of Christianity in this country. We’ve had everything from integrated churches under slavery to race-based black Protestant denominations which people like Rose and Grubaugh are strangely quiet about.
“In Wallace’s view, Christianity always follows the dominant culture. The mainline American churches once accepted slavery and segregation, but now they denounce them. They once rejected abortion, divorce, and homosexuality, but now they accept them. Wallace’s conclusion: “The churches accommodate and echo whatever is the political mainstream.” For the moment, they “are conforming to political correctness in condemning the Alt-Right as uniquely evil,” but in the long run, “the Alt-Right shouldn’t get hung up on being anti-Christian because Christianity is infinitely malleable.”
There is tremendous irony here. Wallace appears to believe that Christianity lacks any truth conditions whatsoever—that it is devoid of content, a mere vessel of empty signs and symbols, to be filled with foreign substances and remolded to suit them. It’s an old wineskin, the civil religion of the Enlightenment, to be filled with the new wine of identity politics. Wallace thus places himself in the same camp as progressive evangelicals, sex-positive Episcopalians, and every other liberal Protestant who preaches a liquid creed. For all of them, there is nothing stable at the heart of Christian faith, no set of propositions that must be judged true or false, no substrate of apostolic tradition or spiritual authority sustaining the Church through the ages; there is only that fickle goddess History, leading a perpetual process of discernment and evolution according to the self-loving demands of the “present.” Whether one uses this “infinitely malleable” Christianity to serve a liberal or a reactionary agenda is largely beside the point. …”
Can you be a pro-black or pro-Hispanic Christian?
If not, why? Why is Christianity uniquely incompatible with White identity? Does it say that anywhere in the Bible or does it instead stem from the uniquely late 20th century elite obsession with “antiracism”? Does this attitude stem from Christianity or the spread of CRT and political correctness?
Since Matthew Rose and Conor Grubaugh published those articles in 2018, CRT and wokeness has become a deeply divisive issue in American churches, which illustrates my point. These elite fads which get started in the universities spread into the churches (and corporations and the military) from their point of origin in other parts of our culture. Christianity is constantly being reinterpreted and remolded to flatter elites and suit their needs and interests. The Southern Baptist Convention attempted to get my friend James Edwards expelled from his church for beliefs which were conventional as recently as the 1980s.
In the not so distant future, I can imagine a world where Christians are expelled from their churches for “misgendering” trans women or opposing plural marriage or for not believing that whiteness is Original Sin. The Swedish Lutheran Church, for example, has declared itself to be a “trans church.” The Church of England recently apologized for expelling Jews in the Middle Ages before it existed. Pope Francis also says all sorts of stupid things and that says more about him personally as an individual. I will continue to go on believing that this says nothing much about the past, but plenty about our own times.