This essay is probably the first draft of something likely to be more refined for my book project, “God and Man in the 21st Century.” It started with a social media exchange where I blew my stack at Robert Stacey McCain for this essay: The Myth of the Masculinity Crisis, which has some undeniably true things in it–but also things that were hard to jibe with with what I know of this Christian family man, who says things I hear too often from other self-described “conservatives.” Regardless, Robert is also still wrongly censored on social media like Twitter by the corporate masters who control far too much of the Internet. He is a conservative and Rightist. I hope he and others in his circle read this and ponder.
Christianity is often good for governments when they embrace it. It’s often lousy for Christians though.
It is a myth that the United States was founded to be a ‘Christian Nation.” Indeed, if we look at the history of Western Civilization, the United States may have been the first country that was not an explicitly Christian Nation, although we were founded by a plenitude of mostly-Christians and what we might call “pious non-observants” steeped in broadly Christian and Platonic values.
Furthermore, Christians have been involved in politics, left wing and right wing and otherwise, since this country was founded. Which is as it should be, in a broad pluralist society. Or so I would think.
For about a century, you could reasonably predict how most Americans would vote based on what strain of Christian they were: “High Church” Episcopalians and Lutherans, Unitarians, Quakers, and some others trended toward Republicans, while working class and rural Baptists, Methodists and other “Evangelicals,” along with Catholics, were usually Democrats.
Yes, though you wouldn’t know it today, the Democratic Party was once a stronghold of Catholics and mostly-humble mainline Protestants. It was also strongly influenced by Evangelicals who hailed from farming and working class backgrounds, whose standard-bearers included the likes of William Jennings Bryan and James Earl Carter. It was only in the 1980s that conservative-minded Christian voters, especially Evangelicals, started voting overwhelmingly Republican, with various movements within that Christian “coalition” eventually melting into what we in the mid-2010s now call “Conservative Evangelical Voters.” Meanwhile, two of the fastest-growing groups within Democratic ranks are self-described atheists and agnostics.
All this was I think good for the Republican Party but not so good for Christians. I especially think today’s politically “Conservative” Christians of the United States, overwhelmingly dominated by “Evangelicals” but also including some from other denominations (including some Catholics like William Bennett), really need to stop and think just how far they have allowed themselves go in the last few decades in order to ally themselves with economic materialism and what is now an ill-defined mostly-secular ethos called “The Conservative Movement.”
It’s not always bad, since after all making money is indeed a good thing–among many other good things–and there really is a time and place for upbraiding someone who is complaining about a problem they can fix for themselves. But when the shibboleths and habits of worldly ideologies like Corporate Capitalism start to confuse in our minds with what is eternally true, always valid, and will never be owned by any political party or ideology, I think there’s a serious problem.
In embracing a “conservatism” that has become obsessed and enthralled by things like “markets’ and “competition” and “efficiency” and “winners and losers,” many Christians appear to have abandoned, or at least forgotten, the part of us that cared about someone we used to call “the working man,” or what Walter Russell Meade has beautifully described as flawed but loveable Jacksonian America.
Many Christians, including not just Catholics but many Protestants, were never entirely comfortable with this “Conservative” alliance with modern capitalism-obsessed Republicans, as they recognized we have greater responsibilities than making money and idolizing those who make lots of it. They realized it tended to also draw Christians toward a harsher, colder worldview, and toward worship of the almighty dollar–what Christians of all stripes used to call Worship of Mammon and all that goes with it, including pride and selfishness and hedonism and contempt.
I’m hoping to get the attention of those who think their faith is best expressed by voting “conservative” by reminding them of this.
I’ve been watching this trend since the 1980s, and now, it’s 2016 and I have noticed that if you speak of compassion and obligation to your fellow man, or of the grave moral hazards and moral responsibilities of wealth, even to fellow Christians, you’re looked at like you may just be a closet Bolshevik.
I’ll tell you what that obsession with “market principles” and “competition” and “efficiency” and “winners and losers” often looks like from a Catholic perspective: idolatry. We Catholics get knocked for allowing statues in our Churches, which some tell us is idolatry, but we think that’s nonsense; the issue in idolatry isn’t the statue, it’s what it represents. Those who pray before idols historically were always seen as worshiping what the idol represented: lovers of war gods worshiped conflict and competition, lovers of sex gods worshiped sex, lovers of mother gods worshiped motherhood, worshipers of luck worshiped money and power, and so on.
In their rough alliance with the Republican Party and economic thinkers like Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Friedrich Hayek–no doubt dazzled by their usually-correct critiques of Marxism–too many Christians in my view have come to unthinkingly speak of things like “competition” and “efficiency” and “winners and losers” in a very vaguely-defined “free market,” as if these and other “capitalist” concepts are core Christian values.
On their way to opposing the International “Social Justice” Left, they don’t seem to have noticed they have been moving toward the opposite evil: uncritical praise of capital acquisition and, worse, actually celebrating the dog-eat-dog mentality it too often leads to.
It also tends to lead to the evil of binary thinking: if left-wingers say something, they must be wrong. It’s a reductionist effect that usually looks like this:
1) Socialists are wrong about many things and have caused much damage
2) Socialists advocate compassion and treating all people justly
3) Therefore, compassion and empathy and concern for mankind is Socialist
Call me a preachy moralist if you must, but I suggest you look carefully at the logical leap between 2 and 3 above.
I really would like someone to explain to me where they got the idea that God thinks Greed Is Good and Competition Is Holy, or how they can jibe dividing men into “winners vs losers,” with anything Jesus said in the entire New Testament. Or where it says that the best message for someone begging for help from the side of a ditch is “man up and stop whining.”
So, now it turns out the Secular Left has begun taking a somewhat more serious interest in issues faced by our sons and brothers, led by secular Social Justice ideologues like Michael Kimmel. Those of us who have been working for years at the thankless task of advocating for our sons and brothers and fathers are well aware of hateful, dishonest pseudointellectuals like Michael Kimmel. Indeed, I and others I work with have done battle with his ilk for years. So have people like Professor Miles Groth, who tried to get psychologists to study male psychology from a non-feminist, non-ideological lens, but had his program destroyed by feminists in Michael Kimmel’s orbit.
But the funny thing is, feminists like Kimmel used to ignore men’s and boy’s issues almost entirely. Now, they at least acknowledge them–and now I read Conservative Christians brushing those issues off as nonexistent or trivial or whining?
After years of complaint by those who advocate for the rights of our sons and brothers, Kimmel and other feminists have begun grudgingly admitting some problems are real: as some Kimmel-feminists recently put it, young men have “much higher involvement in violent crime, as both perpetrators and victims; boys’ higher likelihood of educational failure; untreated mental-health problems and, compared with women, vastly higher suicide rates.”
They are right. Indeed, that’s only a start on acknowledgment. There’s a lot more I could list. For example, boys are the most frequently targeted for infanticide, and in fact are more likely to be murdered by their mothers than their mothers are to be murdered by their fathers. Boys are also more likely to be sexually abused than girls are. They’re more likely to be thrown into foster homes than girls. They’re more likely to be murdered at every single stage of life, at every age. Today, between the ages of 18 and 30, they are often actively discriminated against by programs to “equalize” the nonexistent “Wage Gap” and promote less-qualified women above them. They’re more likely to be enslaved or made indentured servants. They’re more likely to be falsely imprisoned. They’re far more likely to be arrested for the “crime” of defending themselves from assault, too.
I could go on, because there’s more, and plenty of objective nonpolitical references to back it up–but why should I bother if so-called ‘conservative’ Christians will brush it off and call it whining?
Have you had to console a father whose only son has killed himself? Have you had to look a hard-working, always-supported-himself black man and tell him he is now functionally an indentured servant to an ex- who blackmailed him and won’t let him see his kid? A white man who’s been tortured by police? A boy who’s been raped by a woman who took him into foster care? Have you talked to a man who’s been assaulted and then imprisoned by a false accuser? Have you talked to a homeless man with obvious mental illness who’s walking the winter streets in sandles and sleeping on a grate for warmth? I’ve done all that in just the last two years.
I have also talked to men who said when they tried to speak of their woes to their fellows at Church, they were shunned and told to stop whining. And treated as if everything was their fault–no matter what happened, it’s always the man’s fault apparently.
By the way, none of these men were me. But they could have been. And they could have been your brother or your son.
Young men are streaming out of our Churches. Some of that may be what we’ve always known–many young people leave Church and come back when they get older. But the rate of exit today is higher than it’s ever been, and many I’ve talked to are pissed at Christianity because all they ever get fed is shame sandwiches and “Man up” messages about how all responsibility in life falls on their heads, even in situations they have no control over at all–and please, let us dispense with childish “real men are always in control” nonsense: try telling that to me from a prison cell, or when you’re told if you try to call your child on the phone the police will arrest you and you will never see your kids again.
If feminists are starting to sound like maybe someone actually gives a damn, what do you suppose young men, often from fatherless homes, think? Probably “Oh, feminists give a damn maybe.”
Now think what happens when they then read conservatives refer to men desperately struggling as “whining” and “blaming failures on others,” and calling them “losers” who want to “blame their own failures on society.”
Now imagine what they think when they hear they should suck it up and expect no sympathy and no support from a Christian.
I usually think it’s bad form to throw Bible verses at people, not only because it seems presumptuous but because it invites prooftexting and bickering. I’ll hazard it this time, but I’ll make it an exercise. This is from one of the Gospels. Instead of looking it up, I suggest you ask yourself if you remember it:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Christian Conservatives, can you read? No one said you have to agree with liberals on how to address these things, but shrugging them off with sneering contempt makes you worse than the feminists.
Some feminists are acknowledging some real, empirically demonstrable problems now. You apparently won’t even do that.
Will you one day to come hear the words “suck it up whiner, no one cares” repeated back to you?
Will your excuse be, “the world is like that?” Because yes it is. But you are in it, Christian, and you’re asked for more.
Why indeed are young men drawn to unGodly political ideologies while streaming out the doors of the Church? Might it be because they are fed conflicting messages, told their needs do not matter, when they are attacked it is their fault, when they have their possessions stripped they are mocked, when they lose their children they are sneered at, when they’re wrongfully accused, falsely imprisoned, abused by their mothers or wives while being helpless to stop it lest they lose their children, or just desperately crying from howling spiritual pain and wanting to die to make it stop–WHERE WERE YOU AND WHAT DID YOU SAY?
Then speak to me if you will of the God-given rights of men.
Here’s a secular British man I happen to know named Glenn Poole. As I recall, he’s also an atheist. Maybe you don’t like his secular approach or his commitment to an idea of “equality” that’s ill-defined and thus theologically dubious. But at least he’s speaking, and I can assure you that every word he says about the conditions young men, particularly fatherless men, face these days, is true:
The secularists are at least trying to do something. What are YOU doing, Christian?