Monday 28 February 2011

Christianity and Political Correctness - what I think and what I don't


Christianity cannot be used - and the attempt should not be made - as a means to the end of good secular government.

(For instance, Christianity should not be used as a means of making people behave well.)

The word 'good' in good government, indeed, has a quite different meaning from a Christian and a secular perspective: in that salvation is the aim of Christian government while happiness/ minimization of suffering is the aim of secular government.



Atheism is inadequate as a basis for good government - such that all secular government is unstable and self-destroying except in the short term.

(i.e. atheist government can last only a few generations, and then only by virtue of inertia from a previous stable polity.)


Furthermore, most (almost all) Christianity nowadays is thoroughly corrupted by worldly secular thinking - in the West this means that almost all the leadership of Christian churches are primarily politically correct (leftist, progressive) and only secondarily Christian, hence in practice work against Christianity, in one way or another.


So, there is need for discernment.

To find the small amount of real Christianity among a vast mass of corruption and error and lies.

And to prepare, if possible, for worse to come (prepare spiritually, I mean).


It is very likely that Christians (real Christians) are not going to be on the winning side in this world.

At least, things have been getting worse from a Christian perspective for such a long time, and are now very bad indeed; and much wiser heads than mine have perceived that this is unlikely to be reversed (except perhaps temporarily and in a localized way) - and indeed things are likely to get very much worse.


SO (what I think is that) Christianity is probably 'not a good bet', not an expedient choice, if someone is looking for power, status, influence, worldly happiness or indeed freedom from suffering.

But only a valid choice for people looking for reality (i.e. The Good: approximately for Truth, Beauty and Virtue): looking - that is - to save their souls and (perhaps) those of (some) others -

...but not a good bet for those looking to save a 'civilization', or a nation, or an ethnicity or any large grouping. Since all such are now so thoroughly corrupted by worldliness that they do not want to save their souls (not, indeed, believing that they have any souls to be saved).



Alex said...

Bruce writes: Almost all the leadership of Christian churches are primarily politically correct (leftist, progressive) and only secondarily Christian, hence in practice work against Christianity, in one way or another.

This is true, and it's why I describe myself as a Christian who never goes to church (unless "compelled" to attend a ceremony such as a wedding).

I do not believe institutional Christianity - at least in England - is of any use in rolling back the tide of political correctness. On the contrary, it's complicit in the liberal tyranny which is destroying the moral life.

Winston Churchill denied being a 'pillar of the church' and said, "No, not a pillar of the Church, but a buttress, supporting it from the outside." That's been my position for some time.

Anonymous said...

all secular government is unstable and self-destroying except in the short term.

Christianity nowadays is thoroughly corrupted by worldly secular thinking

In other words, today's atheism leads to self destructive government - but so does today's Christianity!

If both are equally afflicted, is the problem then atheism and secular thinking? Before the 1940s, the progressives were not atheists, but they were still progressives. In 1890 Froude depicted these good Christians as destroying the British empire and leaving it in chaos, the white man withdrawing leaving barbarism behind, and what he foretold, unfolded accordingly.

A belief system that does lead to stable government is one that supports property, patriarchy, and propriety. Sometimes Christianity has supported this, without much enthusiasm, and sometimes it has opposed it.

It is Christian leftism that leads to secular thinking - the empty pews of progressive churches - not secular thinking that leads to Christian leftism. The Christian communists that William Bradford condemned for their pride were, he says, godly men.

In so far as Christianity has endorsed property, patriarchy, and propriety, it is as a regrettable necessity, ordained by God due to the fall of man, man being too sinful for other, better, arrangements.

With an endorsement like that, it is hardly surprising that Christianity tends from time to time to veer self destructively left.

Bruce Charlton said...


Christianity is 2000 years old, not 200 years old.

It is atheism (especially soul denial) that is historically-recent, not Christianity.

You've completely reversed the arrow of causation...

Dirichlet said...

I, too, have completely given up on "saving civilization." This position, prevalent among American conservatives, is somehow tragic, because there is little to save, and whatever it is, it's not worth saving.

Anyhow, 'secularized Christianity' -- the position that religion is important for social stability and individual happiness, has to be rejected. Salvation, not worldly satisfaction, is the business of religion.

Anonymous said...

Christianity is 2000 years old, not 200 years old

William Bradford's critique of Christian communism is four hundred years old. Christianity has been subverting capitalism ever since capitalism was important. In ninth to thirteenth centuries, Christianity was undermining patriarchy and knighthood, and if they were not causing problems from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, it is because Kings ensured orthodoxy at swordpoint.

Today's Christian left has a long history.

What happens is that Christians develop a critique of this world's social order, propose a holier social order - which this worldly redemption tends to cause them to overlook Christ's message of sin, forgiveness, grace and redemption.

You can argue that that is not true Christianity, and it is not. Such Christians develop a striking resemblance to unitarians, having no need to be redeemed because they think they are already holier than thou, and unitarians eventually develop a striking resemblance to atheists, but it is an ailment internal to Christianity: A desire for holier than thou institutions in this world comes first, secularism several generations later.

By and large, Christians have stuck to other worldly redemption only when the secular authorities have damn well made them do so, and when they have not been so restrained, they have attempted to redeem this world by imposing holier institutions, and when they have attempted to redeem this world, the result has been extremely bad for both Christianity and this world.

Christianity has been beneficial only in that, being other worldly, it is less apt to do damage in this world than Islam, earth worship, and so on and so forth.

Bruce Charlton said...

JAD - well, obviously, the whole of this blog is intended as a refutation to your point of view.

My perspective is Orthodox, and from this perspective the peak was Byzantium - Roman Catholicism was the beginning of a long Christian decline in the West which has by now gone very far.

But, on the other hand, there is a very simple and non-denominational, often un-organized, non-civilizational Christianity of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour.

This is perhaps all that can be managed by most people now. But Byzantine Orthodoxy enabled vastly higher levels of spirituality than has been possible in the West for a very long time.

I presume you are judging Christianity of different types in terms of how much prosperity or happiness it seems to lead-to or is apparently associated with.

Obviously, that is not how I see the world - or at least I strive (intermittently) not to see the world in that bleak and despairing fashion - although decades of training in materialism and comfort-seeking plus original sin conspire against a trascendental perspective; and the whole of modern society is feeding nihilistic hedonism to me (and everyone else) hourly!

Anonymous said...

My perspective is Orthodox, and from this perspective the peak was Byzantium - Roman Catholicism was the beginning of a long Christian decline in the West which has by now gone very far.

Quite so. I agree entirely. But the Byzantine Church was firmly under the thumb of secular rulers.

The question is: Is the arrow of causation that the church is secularized, and then becomes political, or is the arrow of causation that the church proposes to remake earthly political institutions, becomes political, and then, being political, and thus already holier than thou, has no need for Christ's redemption and thus becomes secularized.

Left wing political Christianity has a long history - we see them undermining knighthood and patriarchy in the twelfth century.

Byzantine Churchmen, being firmly under the thumb of secular rulers, would have been swiftly clapped in irons had they taken an interest in earthly politics, and attempted to replace existing earthy institutions with holier and nicer institutions.

Did rulers keep the church from getting into politics, and losing sight of the redemption of souls as the modern Christian church had done, or did the church uphold a practical realistic, and self confident politics?

Doubtless Byzantium was self confident because its religion endorsed people fighting for Byzantium and for their way of life - but priests tend to do that when they are the King's sock puppets.

Fighting Christian orders with a religious, rather than secular leadership, such as the knights of Malta tended (at grossly inappropriate moments) to recollect the message of Jesus to turn the other cheek

Your example of a church that did not succumb to secularism, is a church that was firmly under the thumb of semi hereditary secular rulers.

at least I strive (intermittently) not to see the world in that bleak and despairing fashion

Well, obviously I do see the world in a bleak and despairing fashion. But supposing Christianity as advocated by the people who wrote the new testament to be true, then Christianity is other worldly and non political, in which case it is unlikely to either support or damage functional social institutions - but since most religions tend to destroy functional social institutions, this makes Christianity the least harmful religion.

Unfortunately Christianity fails to satisfy the preacher's need to be holier than thou.

Advocating reform of social institutions, nicer, kinder, more humane institutions - and thus denigrating and undermining existing social institutions, makes the preacher holier than now without the tedious inconvenience of himself needing to be nicer, kinder, and more humane, thus organized Christianity tends to lurch away from redemption of souls and forgiveness of sins, to social reform, absent a secular authority that claps secular reformers in irons.

The result of such reforms, particularly when advocated by people who care more about demonstrating that they are on the side of goodness than whether the proposed reforms are likely to work, is that the old institutions are destroyed, and the new well intentioned institutions are not kinder and gentler, because they are completely disfunctional.

Secularism triumphed because Churchmen turned away from New Testament Christianity, which tells us the preacher and the congregation are sinners, but can be forgiven if they seek Christ's redemption, to left wing Christianity, which tells us the preacher is holier than thou, and the congregation can be holy also if they too set to work destroying existing cruel and uncaring institutions.

Bruce Charlton said...

JAD - I had had not been so lazy, I would have indexed my blog postings, and then I could refer you to the entries where I try to answer some of these questions...

The Byzantine Church was not under the thumb of secular rulers, because the Emperor was (so they believed, for hundreds of years) chosen by God, a divinely ordained ruler - a mediator between God and the people, a living Apostle.

Rather, the Chruch and State were fused or at least inseperable - Byzantium was a theocracy of sorts.

But the Byzantines also knew that humans were fallen, prone to error, and corruptible - mistakes could be made - sometimes a bad Emeror was sent to punish the people, sometimes the people (in their wickedness) chose a bad Emperor and so on.

What I think the Byzantine civilization achieved (to a higher degree than any other) was that the Christian and other-worldly perspective *permeated* daily life.

There were many examples of advanced holiness (Saints, Elders, monks and nuns), and these examples were revered.

There were processions, continual liturgy, rituals, fasting and feats of asceticism, architecture, icons (except during the terrible iconoclast era).

Because the society contained so many holy people, and because the society was itself (from the Emperor down) continually reinforcing the other-worldly, salvation orientation - I think this supported people in their Christianity and enabled some individuals to attain very advanced levels of holiness (i.e. Saints, living simultaneously in heaven and on earth).

At the same time, the Empire was powerful enough (and, indirectly, 'worldly' enough) to survive against encircling and determined foes, for many generations.

But of course the fact of human corruption remained, and the fact that life in this world will never - can never, should never - suffice or satisfy.

SO, my general conception is that many societies have received Christian revelation and 'know what they ought to do' - but beyond this, there are huge variations in how advanced on a path of holiness people can go before their death (or whether people have such intense faith that they could die a martyr's death).

Also, if an individual tries to advance along a path of ascetic, mystical holiness alone (and there may be no means of support in most societies - no true Church, no exemplars and guides) - the endeavor tends to be corrupted by pride, and subverted into evil.

SO - some societies can only attain very moderate levels of Christian spirituality, sometimes very moderate indeed. This feebleness must be wholly acknowledged, and not rationalized.

For example, if we nowadays have no Saints in England (as seems probable), then that is because England is not holy enough to produce Saints. It is not because Saints are nowadays impossible in principle, but that it is so difficult for an unsupported individual human to achieve sanctity (without falling into pride) that it is very unlikely to happen.

And of course the Christian perspective sees this world as time limited - although the time is not named. Fr Seraphim Rose, and others, see these as the End Times, although not irreversibly so (there could in principle be repentance and further delay) and the end itself is not yet since the prophecies have not *all* been fulfilled.

Indeed Fr Seraphim advised that we assume these are indeed End Times and behave accordingly; prepare spiritually; be aware of the need for 'discernment' - that most "Christianity" will be corrupt to the extent of being a mask for evil (for the 'Antichrist' which the Orthodox regard as an *imitator* of Christ - a man who is a fake Christ with many superfically Christian attributes).

This is covered in some of the Fr Seraphim Rose essays collected here: