Convention is a Cult

Evangelical Christianity surged in the wake of the Sixties, providing a home for that decade’s first casualties, and others. By 1976 it was mainstream enough that liberal Jimmy Carter could claim it without harm (there was a bit of snickering, I recall, as well as at the new term “Born Again Christianity”).

At the time in my old neighborhood if someone turned up in this state he was viewed with horror. The transformation–early on, destined to wear off in most cases–was such that it seemed to leave little of the “old” person behind.

That it was often the more dissolute who found God in this way made the change all the more jarring. Suddenly an overnight spiritual wonder appears, all enthusiasm and warmth as he declares you hell-bound for your degenerate ways–and he knows all about it, having been there last week.

But that nauseating sense of alienation, sometimes from close friends, came to mind reading this New Yorker article about doxxed alt-righter Mike Enoch:

Billie wondered aloud how to tell their friends and family about Mike E. “What do you do?” she said. “Send a letter to your cousins—‘Haven’t spoken to you in twenty years, hope you’re doing well, and, oh, P.S., our son’s a Nazi now’?” She worried that people would wonder what she and Mike, Sr., had done wrong as parents. “Everyone wants it to be simple, to know who to blame,” one of Mike E.’s relatives told me later. “But lots of kids have parents who get divorced when they’re young. Lots of white kids have difficult personalities. They don’t all become Nazis.” 

A few people around town had already heard the news, mostly through Facebook, and some of them were talking about Mike E. as if he had been abducted by a cult, or tied down and injected with a serum of pure hatred. Other people assumed that there must be some key biographical fact—a chemical imbalance, a history of abuse—that would neatly unlock the mystery. But Mike E.’s conversion was more quotidian than that, and therefore more unsettling; somehow, over time, he had fallen into a particularly dark rabbit hole, where some of the most disturbing and discredited ideas in modern history were repackaged as the solution to twenty-first-century malaise.

“Racists” are the new child molesters, somebody has written elsewhere (I can’t find it). That’s the deliberate work of generations. But there’s the little problem of the truth. It’s easy to hold child molesters in low regard. The Narrative groans under the stress of contradicting reality even as the net dehumanizing “racists” is cast ever wider. Yet still, it holds somehow. Mike E could have robbed a bank and caused his family less embarrassment.

Way back when I endured entreaties from converted friends, and sat through those awful born-again sermons, what I could never shake was my resistance to the story of Christ as Messiah. I could see the value of belief, but I could not believe this. For me at the center of my alienation from my born-again peers was this idea that I found incomprehensible–that Jesus suffered on the cross for my sins.

That sense of alienation–I suspect–was there for most people, for the same reason: the converts believed something crazy. People didn’t say this. The average person was nominally religious, even if he didn’t practice. He said he believed in God. He appreciated the church. He appreciated and understood the need for moral order and saw the church’s role there. But, again I suspect, he secretly saw the convert’s obsession with Jesus on the Cross a little, or a lot, crazy.

Conventional, publicly enforced views on race are approaching the mythical, that is to say objectively they could be called crazy.

So the “racist” alienated from his family now is a sort of inversion of the zealot alienated from his family then. The latter was a source of concern because he was seen as believing crazy things. The former is a source of concern because he’s seen as not believing crazy things.

And, per one of my pet crackpot peeves, widespread belief in the Resurrection demands no disbelief in the realities of the world we inhabit. I don’t mean to belittle it when I say it is harmless. Whereas the widespread belief in Equality demands just that. It has implications in every aspect of life, everywhere, always, that depend on its truth. Its failure is evident in every aspect of life everywhere, always. Jesus is benignly absent, and Christians see their relationship to him as “personal”–that is private. Contrast that with the demands of Equality now, which intrude further into the private sphere.

The Christian’s profession of belief is ritualized and set aside from from the worldly. Thus the mythology of Christianity is benignly absent from the practical. Marxism has sought to absorb everything from agriculture to mathematics, of course. Christianity might have felt threatened by scientific discovery, but it never saw the need for such as a Christian agriculture or physics.

The problem with the new civic religion is it’s all worldly. If we could perform some ritual sacrifice to Equality and get on with our lives, it would be harmless.

This is why political correctness is far more severe than religion as it’s been practiced in the West. Galileo, whose discoveries upended conventional and biblical interpretations of the natural world, had defenders even in the Church. The narrative of equality allows no such equanimity because it can’t survive it. It can’t survive it because it’s a lie.

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