Friday, April 7, 2017

The Culture Warrior Fades Away

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If you came here looking for some commentary on last night's launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria, I’m sorry to disappoint you. In an essay to be published on Catholic Stand tomorrow, April 8, 2017, I will announce that I’m retiring the “Catholic Culture Warrior” persona. Although the decision was made without prior anticipation of last night’s action, the same reasons that prompted the decision also preclude comment.

I’ll continue to write; however, the emphasis of my writing will shift focus away from commentary on current events and into a different direction. I’m still in the process of thinking through the problem of “where do I go from here”, so I don’t know how this will affect my sadly neglected personal blogs.

Why am I retiring the CCW shtick?

First, I have a lot of intellectual arrogance and not a lot of charity. As a result, I tend to treat people who disagree with me harsher than I ought. Put more simply, when it comes to argument, I just can’t play nice.

Second, even to the extent that fighting the culture wars has been necessary, it’s simply highlighted the degree to which the gospel message has lost coherence among Christians. Moreover, it has distracted effort and moral capital from the New Evangelization that was supposed to counteract the loss of coherence.

Third, as the gospel message has lost coherence, confessional Christianity has lost adherents. As a consequence, the Christian worldview no longer dominates the public square and its ability to provide a common language between left and right is diminishing rapidly. There is still a culture war going on; however, the war is now over the form post-Christian American society will take. That it will be post-Christian is beyond reasonable doubt.

Now more than ever, Christian ecumenism has to be brought out of the talk-shops and into practical effect at the grass roots. If “culture of life” is to be anything more than a catchphrase and a handful of ideologically-dictated policy preferences, it will have to be built up as has every other civilization since before history — not top-down but bottom-up, from the base of families, neighborhoods, and communities. For Christians, the “culture of life” must be firmly grounded in a common understanding of the gospel as a message of love, mercy, self-sacrifice, and service to others, as well as in an authentic understanding of the human person in relation to society. If we have difficulty reuniting on higher theological questions, we must at least come to an agreement on this much: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25).

That, I believe, is where my focus ought to be: on articulating the grounds and the foundation on which we can rebuild an authentically Christian culture, identity, and civilization — the “culture of life”. I’m not so egotistical as to think I can accomplish this by myself, or that others aren’t better prepared to engage in such work than I am. However, I believe that’s where I’m needed. Also, if I’m right and the West is headed for an unrecoverable, demographic winter-driven cascade failure, I have little hope that such a civilization can be built in time to stave it off or mitigate its worst effects. However, I do believe that even the beginnings of such a civilization can eventually help to pick up the salvageable pieces.

I’m reluctant to tie a bow on this, because this feels like saying “goodbye”, like when I moved from Omaha to north-central Texas. But then, I think that the single notable aspect of the Christian culture warrior is that he’s a creature of nostalgia, a man trying desperately to hang on to some remnant of the past instead of living in the present and working towards a better future. Christianity does have a future on earth as well as in heaven. We can let it happen to us, or we can cooperate with God in making it happen.

Old soldiers never die, said the old ballad. They just fade away.

Semper Fi.