Disquiet on the Christian Front
July is traditionally a time of spiritual retreat for Ignatian Christians. This past month, I disengaged from worldly affairs, refrained from posting on social media and immersed myself in four weeks of prayer and contemplation. Of course, world events could not help but register an impact. This is an exciting time to be a Christian, particularly if you're an old-school Anglican increasingly at odds with both his church and culture in general.
There was once an easy interchange between the world of letters and that of cultural Christianity. Ideas from C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and MLK were common currency - known quantities in western culture. This was at a time of greater cultural, racial and religious homogeneity, when the majority of our population was WASP and church-affiliated. But we all know times change, and the wisest and most compassionate among us are prepared to adapt. I believe most Christians understood and expected that Christianity's share of the cultural imagination would diminish as conditions changed and we moved into a post-Christian world. What has surprised many of us is how quickly our own culture turned hostile to its parent religion.
There was definitely a time when "Christian persecution" seemed an overblown claim coming from western Evangelicals. But when we reflect on how effectively that community built its home-schooling capability, buttressed affiliate colleges and championed a form of social and economic separatism, and consider it in light of where our culture has ended up, we must give credit where credit is due. However we may differ from our Evangelical brethren in terms of demonstrative enthusiasm and overall zeal, they most certainly get points for foresight. They, among all Christian groups, had the earliest sense of the moral and social cliff toward which we were hurtling. Now we have gone over and the manifold damage to society and culture is done, and it is monumental. I would be unlikely to voluntarily raise a child in the steaming moral mess our civilization has become.
Christians have recognized something about our current cultural zeitgeist that liberals have not: that our struggle with the radical left is an existential one. While clever people like Bret Weinstein and members of the Intellectual Dark Web fashion ways to understand and engage the Woke left in dialogue, the Woke left ignores them and forges ahead with its project of cultural deconstruction. It has no need for dialogue. It controls the 'Means of Communication' and so does not need to share the psycho-linguistic landscape with any prospective rivals. It can complete its project of sanitizing the cultural terrain in tabula rasa, consuming all in its path, leaving a pristine canvas for its Year Zero aspirations. Among the last to go will be well-meaning liberals seeking dialogue.
This is a truth acknowledged almost universally among the various Christian communities through which I have journeyed these past two years. Also common among them is an awareness of the increasing persecution of our fellow believers in Nigeria, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and China. Incidents of mischief, fire, theft or vandalism of Christian sites in
Europe come in at an average of one per day. And the iconoclasm of the Black Lives Matter movement now includes Christian monuments, notably the statue of St. Junípero Serra in San Francisco and the shrine to the Black Madonna in Breda. Even Christians seeking to withdraw from secular society are now "white supremacists."
So it came - nuanced, ceremonial but all the more deeply felt for such - as a subtle declaration of war when His Excellency the Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco performed the Rite of Exorcism in the park where the statue where St. Junípero had been toppled. For Christians around the world, this was the signal for the Church Militant to begin marshaling for the fight to come.
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
The response has been almost universal. From Catholics rallying to protect the statue of St. Louis, patron of that city, to students of Rod Dreher's seminal The Benedict Option gathering in personal and virtual discussion groups to plan for a post-Christian future, 21st Century believers are acutely aware of the social and existential crisis faced by the Christian faith and are on the move.
Christians are as diverse as we are universally practical in addressing the challenges facing us. Pastor Jeff Durbin of Apologia Church is a charismatic - and improbably hip - apologist for Christianity, an engaging and imaginative speaker whose deep knowledge of Scripture is matched by his skills in the traditional martial arts. Believing that we are now in a time and place where Christians face real danger, he has begun providing practical self-defense classes to staff and parishioners of his ministry. Pastor Jeff's instruction is as useful as his tactics are effective and non-lethal. Programs like his remind Christians that, while we are enjoined to turn the other cheek, there are no Biblical prohibitions against self-defense.
"Indeed," one crusty ex-RCMP chaplain growled to me over coffee one afternoon. "Jesus was no effing door-mat."
The time has never been more clear for Christians to awaken and reclaim our warrior ethos. We must prepare to serve and defend our communities however possible. It seems that withdrawal from and limited participation in secular society is to be the favored path going forward. But this in the end may serve as only a delaying action. Some Christians are preparing to take more decisive steps.
A movement of monastic withdrawal - actual separation into isolated communities - is underway among some western believers. Some of us have purchased property and moved to the country. Others are isolating within urban neighborhoods. Many are storing
food and supplies against what we perceive to be a coming persecution. Still others, like the character Justin in Will Arbery's play Heroes of the Fourth Turning, advocate firearms training for the faithful. This is unfamiliar terrain for many Christians, more reminiscent of Northern Ireland or Lebanese militia than Sunday potlucks. Nevertheless, here we are.
What is clear is that we inhabit a social, cultural and ideological space increasingly hostile to our presence. As Christians, we are prepared to move into an uncertain and unfamiliar future, knowing that the final victory has already been won for us by Christ's sacrifice. What remains is to fight to defend a humane presence within that world, Scripturally-centered, committed to doing God's will on Earth. Ultimately peaceful, but prepared to defend itself if necessary. We must be prepared for rocky terrain ahead. Christ never promised it would be easy. Only that it would be worth it.
Jamie Mason is the author of ECHO, KEZZIE OF BABYLON and THE BOOK OF ASHES. He lives on Vancouver Island. Learn more at jamiescribbles.com