In accordance with my first post on this topic, which focuses on how rightists and leftists both misappropriate the Christian faith for their purposes, I’m going to expand on the ideas it presented and focus on the respective models of civilization and where they both fall short.
The Rightist Model: Traditional Western Civilization
The Alt-Rightist worships in the cathedral of Western Civilization, viewing it as the apex of human cultures and lamenting its decay. He is chiefly concerned with preserving and restoring Western Civilization, and (speaking from what I’ve seen and experienced amongst these types) his advocacy of Christianity often feels as though he is picking and choosing the parts that support his political agenda. Usually Christianity is treated as a useful tool, a means to build up Western Civilization.
Don’t get me wrong: I am very thankful for Western Civilization and the rich history of literature, art, and technological innovation it has nourished over hundreds of years. I consider myself very sympathetic to these concerns, and think that describing my political views as pro-Western Civilization would be accurate. The problem is that Western Civilization, and the alt-right obsessed with it, is rarely genuinely Christian. As I pointed out in the last post (and this bears repeating), in a tremendous twist of irony, the supposedly Christian Alt-Rightist’s view of how the world ought to be is more explicitly Darwinian and merciless than the progressive utopia of the usually-secular or atheistic Leftist. Western Civilization is a civilization ruled by Law, not Grace: ultimately a culture in which Christianity is a useful tool for the Civilization’s own purpose, rather than one which defines the culture.
This isn’t to say that Western Civilization is completely absent of genuine Christian influence. The Christian belief that the Universe is an ordered place, governed by stable, natural laws set in place by God, is the cornerstone of all modern science (much to the ire of atheists who co-opt science for their own agenda.) Most notably, Western civilization single-handedly ended slavery across the world, after indulging in it for a few centuries, even in far-flung reaches of the Arabic, African, and Asian world. Whatever else they did wrong, this does bear emphasizing.
But often, the history of Western Civilization looks much like any other secular civilization, with Christian window dressings: kings engage in brutal wars over territory or for wealth; remote lands are conquered by civilizations who believe they are Superior (a descendant of Phariseeism, really), and humans are enslaved either by chains or by narcotics for the increase of the West’s wealth. None of these things result from Christianity, they are the fruit of a civilization that superficially pays lip service to the Christian faith while acting as they please. And this is a major reason why the formerly “Christian” Europe is now mostly spiritually dead.
The Rightist grows ever more isolated, sneering Don’t Tread On Me, building doomsday shelters and preparing for End Of The World As We Know It that will justify his mountains of guns and ammunition, mostly-camo wardrobe, stockpile of gold, and Ford F350. He is as naive in his trust of businessmen and Banksters as the Leftist in his faith in Government. The rust of individualism corrodes Christian love, witness, and compassion, until he has broken off contact with the world (or at least, those who are different from him) in favor of isolated self-satisfaction. The fate of the Rightist is much like the Hell of C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.
The Leftist Model: Progressive Utopia
The Leftist sees the problems with Western Civilization and starts out with noble goals, such as ending slavery, or the mistreatment of women, or the hardship of the poor. The problem is that these causes, meeting their initial goals, morph and mutate over time into ghastly aberrations. Whether overtly or subconsciously, these causes have completely mutated while unjustifiably maintaining the legitimacy of their original grievances.
Ending slavery and institutionalized racism was a noble goal; a culture of perpetual victimhood, name-blaming, and glorifying degeneracy and crime makes a mockery of their legacy. Improving conditions for exploited workers and abused immigrants is likewise laudable but was co-opted and mutated by Marxism, and its astonishing legacy of bloodshed and chaos, resulting from the premise that the State, rather than the Landowner, was God. Worse (but often overlooked) is the legacy of feminism: what began as a movement that sought better treatment for women became one predicated on the radical notion that women are actually men. It rejected femininity in a multitude of ways, but most appallingly in Abortion: the enduring fruit of feminism, the unspeakable evils of abortion have resulted in a body count that puts history’s vilest despots to shame (and in America, much of the body count belonging to the black Americans the Leftist so pretends to adore.)
The Progressive Utopia of the Leftist is the desired result of fixing the problems that the Leftist perceives in Western society. The problem is, what may be an oppressive, unjust, and Darwinian society becomes becomes a brutal authoritarian hellhole; it is the exchange of one evil for another, greater evil. The strength of Western Civilization is that it recognizes the fallibility of man, and puts some safeguards in place to check it, while in other areas, it shrugs and says “this is the best we can do.” Whatever faults Western Civilization may have, at least it has a realistic view of human nature. The Leftist, in his wide-eyed optimism, sees man as moving in an ever-upward trajectory, and naively believes Man can be perfected (without which a Utopia is impossible.) But the harder we strive for secular perfection, the worse things get.
To put it another way, the Rightist has a great deal of faith in material and economic progress, and is cynical about spiritual progress. The Leftist, in contrast, is skeptical and distrustful of material progress, while ever-optimistic about secular spiritual progress. The Rightist view of history is cyclical; the Leftist view, an upward incline.
Both the rightist and the leftist recognize the problems with each others’ model, but their proposed solutions only make things worse. This is where we are now: a society that can no longer, in an possible sense, be considered Christian. It is one that hates the family, hates Christian values and morality, and hates the truth. Neither the Rightist nor Leftist can offer a true solution to the world’s problems: their political models inevitably fail and make things worse (usually in different ways.) Whatever your political stripe, serving one side or the other isn’t a solution, because the solution isn’t political, it’s spiritual.
This state of affairs is a mess, but it does offer Christians a unique opportunity to provide a third option.