A difference between Catholic and Protestant traditionalists

The Christian reactionary is confronted by two “Others”.  On the one hand, there are liberals, the members of his own civilization who share many of his habits and history and yet wish to cut this civilization off from its Christian roots.  On the other hand, there are the other religions and civilizations:  Islam, pagan antiquity, and the Orient.  There are, thus, three points on his ideological map.  In principle, there’s no reason the three points couldn’t be equally spaced, each equally different from the other two.  In practice, the Christian reactionary usually takes one of two positions.

  1. Regard Christians and liberals as closer to each other than either is to non-Christian civilization.  Liberals are our wayward brethren.  They’ve forgotten how the stuff they value, like human rights and the presumption of a rational universe, depends on Christian revelation.  Before and outside Christianity, the world is cruel and vicious, and not at all what liberals would want.  The non-Westerners are the real threat.  They don’t just criticize our civilization from within; they would destroy it from without.  Practical implication:  make common cause with Right-liberals against Islam.
  2. Regard Christianity and other religions as closer to each other than either is to the liberalism.  Liberalism is a freakish departure from the piety, patriarchy, and hierarchy that marks the consensus of all mankind.  Plato, Muhammed, and Confucius stand with us in condemning the liberal abomination, and this fact gives us comfort.  Practical implication:  make common cause with Muslims against feminism.

Right now, I’d like to leave aside the question of which is right and which is wrong.  I have colleagues who I deeply respect on both sides.  What I’ve noticed, though, is that Protestants seem to be noticeably more drawn to position 1 and Catholics to position 2.  Does this seem true to anyone else?  I think what’s going on is that Protestants ultimately feel more at home in the modern world than Catholics.  (It’s when the Reformation happened, after all.)  They are less likely to reject democracy, capitalism, and secular culture in their entirety.  They are more willing to try to salvage some good in the liberal/American tradition.  Catholics, on the other hand, feel more alienated from the modern world (It’s when the Reformation happened, after all.), and more tied to the ancient world.  The idea of a perennial philosophy, that Plato and Aristotle (and, for that matter, Ibn Sina) are on our side, has deep roots in us.  Catholics don’t like the “Christianity saved us from pagan barbarism” argument, because we don’t like it when people put down the Roman empire.

25 Responses

  1. That’s food for thought, at least for me. It is like a huge iceberg ascending upon the open plain. I don’t know a more succinct paragraph, for a God-fearing Christian, that addresses whether we love God greater than our family/blood (including extended, from a racialist pov).

    In fact, it hurts.

    I once got asked, online, whether I would choose waking up 2000 years ago amongst pagan (and White (I am what a post-modernist would call a “racist”)) Ireland or Christian Ethiopia.

    I chose, as a Protestant, pagan Ireland, as long as I had a moment to proselytize before I was beheaded.

    Obviously, it hurts. Fortunately(?), for 98% of the, now only 8% White World, it isn’t an issue that they will ever contemplate.


  2. Those Ethiopian Christians have an ethnic and racial identity. Their Christianity hasn’t destroyed their ethnic and racial identity. Those Ethiopians would see you as an outsider even though you are Christian. People of European descent have been brainwashed to believe that christianity cancels out ethnicity and race. That is total nonsense. Just down the street from me there is a KOREAN protestant church- full of ONLY Koreans.

    “before I was beheaded”—- it was the invading christians who killed pagan Europeans. Get your facts straight and stop trying to make christians the victims when in fact it was the christians who were the killers.

  3. I suspect that this reveals a big difference between the US and the UK – things have gone much further in the UK. Christianity is very weak here, and whatever people’s nominal beliefs, it is very rare indeed for these to have any effect at the social level.

    The most devout UK Christians seem to be evangelical protestants – these are prepared to go against PC and also sponsor evangelism in places like Turkey. Catholics have near zero visibility and seem to be more PC and multicultural than most – Catholics are nearly always proud of how modern and liberal and relaxed they are becoming; and the Catholic intellectuals are mostly Leftist, pacifist, often explicitly Marxist (eg the UK Dominicans). Socialists first, and Christianity fitted-in.

    Leftism and diversity combine to create a totalitarian system, enforced by a soft terrorism (I mean a terrorism of non-physical coercion – sackings and public humiliation rather than torture and executions – but prison is beginning to creep in as a punishment for trangression, both here in the UK and in Europe.

    The fact is that the time for this kind of discussion is now past in the UK – since people are too fearful to say anything ecape the mainstream PC/ multicultural view – they are afraid for their livelihoods and afraid of religious violence. Too afraid event to admit what it is they are afraid of. And these fears are absolutely realistic, reprisals for transgressions are frequent and severe.

    So – with one side unable (not allowed) even to state their arguments (to do so is explicitly illegal under all-inclusive hate crime type European laws) public discourse can now *only* reinforce the mainstream PC multiculturalism…

  4. What a miserable place the UK and all of the EU must be to live in.

  5. It seems that the distinction you are making has to do with deciding which faction is the greater enemy: liberalism or Islam (or, more generally, foreign religions.) I’m of the opinion that Lydia McGrew is correct when she calls Islam and liberalism “incommensurable threats,” and that it is a mistake to identify one as the “real” enemy.

    Islam, although essentially foreign to us and hostile by the very commands of its scriptures, has an integrity that liberalism lacks. It has sustained its civilization for 1400 years now. But liberalism is a recent perversion that (in my view) will necessarily either destroy the Civilization it has infected, thereby passing out of existence, or else be defeated. In either case, I say liberalism’s days are numbered, although not before it inflicts dreadful suffering.

    (I refer to liberalism as an organized system. Liberalism in the sense of man’s sinful propensities will always be with us.)

    If the world may be likened to a schoolyard, then Islam is like a healthy bully and liberalism is like a charismatic, physically sick pervert. The bully is an obvious threat, but he also has a basic integrity the pervert lacks. The pervert is no threat to those who are on guard against him, and his eventual doom is certain, but he can beguile the unwary into destroying themselves.

  6. I like your observations here, Bonald. I’ve noticed something, and I’ve wondered why it is, that the debate between whether the greater enemy is Islam or liberalism often seems to center around the “woman question.” Lydia McGrew’s argumentation against Jim Kalb is a good example of this. She appears to be able accept liberalism as the greater enemy, except that in Islamic countries women are treated subhumanly, there is FGM, there are honor killings, there are state-sanctioned wife beatings, etc. Never mind what the philosophy is behind their actions in relation to women and how that philosophy speaks to all of humanity, not just women; or, if a philosophy is ascribed to the actions, it is a simplistic, reductionist “women are just second-class citizens,” or “it’s just a misogynistic religion.” One gets the impression that their view of Islam is that it would be just about as good as Christianity, except they hate women, so therefore it’s unacceptable, and we’re better off with feminism, for all its faults.

  7. “…when in fact it was the christians who were the killers.”

    I know, the meanies!

  8. I ‘d agree that Protestantism has greater theoretical affinity with liberalism, since liberals simply go one or two steps farther in the rejection of dogma and authority. In the eighteenth century it was commonly said that Protestantism leads to Unitarianism, Unitarianism to Deism, and Deism to Infidelity. There can be no question that a great many people followed this path out of the faith, but I’m not sure that Infidelity is the telos of Protestantism. I’d say, rather, that Protestants (in the U.S. at least) were more susceptible to liberalism, and once they tried to graft it on to their doctrine, liberalism simply took over. Unitarianism between 1800 and 1850 is a vivid example. When Catholics attempted the same thing, the results were the same. Either there was Infidelity or Liberalism expressed in a Christian idiom.

    Historically Catholic missionaries were much more respectful of native religions, famously attempting to preserve as much of these as possible. The results were not always happy, but the evidence supports your point. I’m not sure that many modern Catholics share this attitude, though. How could they, given the number of homilies they hear enunciating liberalism in a Christian idiom.

    So I think the fundamental division runs through the Protestantism and Catholicism, and that it divides those with a Biblical anthropology from those with a Liberal anthropology. The former says men are sinners who must repent, the later that men are victims of oppression in need of liberation.

  9. Both Catholic and Protestant churches are honeycombed with liberals and Satan’s minions. Either way you have to swim upstream to hold true to God and Christ.

    But to rephrase Roebuck’s comment, Islam is a good clean enemy, and liberalism is the traitorous enemy. Traitors are always worse, because they betray.

  10. There is another perspective of interest here as well. What if one belongs to a socially and religiously conservative non-dominant Christian minority or non-Christian minority and is faced with the choice of living either under a liberal, secular political and cultural arrangement which is largely poisonous to the values and transcendent orientation that you hold dear, but at least does not actively oppress you and largely leaves you alone in the spirit of hedonic individualism or, alternatively, of living under a socially and religiously conservative political and cultural arrangement dominated by a Christian majority other than your own, in which the values and transcendent orientation of the larger culture are consonant with those you hold dear but in which you would be subject to active discrimination and oppression of varying degree. Which do you prefer? Another way of putting the question in the context of a concrete example is “Why are Jews liberal?”

    One should not think that just because you are Christian, you would be exempt from such a scenario. On the contrary, whether one considers the plight of English Catholics following the “Stripping of the Altars” under Henry VIII, French Protestant Huguenots caught up in the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, or Byzantine Orthodox caught up in the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the theme of Christians visiting death and oppression on other Christians in the name of religious difference is one of the persistent themes of European history. Of course, if you were a Jew or Saracen, the situation was even worse, as in the Spanish Reconquista, to which the Inquisition played handmaid, where the stark choices were flight, expulsion or forcible conversion, the last frequently followed by murder, torture or imprisonment if the sincerity of your conversion was suspect, which it typically was. If you were a Jew, and were fortunate, you ended up in a place such as the Venetian ghetto, where you were tolerated for the money you brought into the coffers of the Republic; if you were a Saracen – despite the impression given by Shakespeare’s Othello – there was no place for you at all.

    What largely put an end to the matter, ironically, was the rise of secular political and cultural ideals formed by the Enlightenment, the immediate precursor and progenitor of the modern liberal, secular State. Indeed, the endemic religio-political infighting among European Christians was one of the causative factors in the rise of the Enlightenment. In other words, one of the causative factors in the rise of modern secular liberalism is precisely the persistent incapacity of European Christians to put their house in order with respect to the question of religious toleration. No traditional civilization has done this perfectly, but several have done it better, including the Chinese, Indian and, yes, even Islamic civilizations. To return to the original question, what if one belongs to a socially and religiously conservative non-dominant Christian minority or non-Christian minority in the present situation? You may hold values and a transcendent orientation consonant with the socially and religiously conservative Christian majority – whatever it is, which will vary by circumstance – that would motivate you to make common cause with them, but can you possibly trust them not to oppress you, given the opportunity? What, in historical experience, would lead you to think they wouldn’t?

  11. Certainly, my claim doesn’t work if applied to Catholics and Protestants in general. I’m just noting a distinction I think I’ve seen among explicitly non-liberal Christians.

  12. Phil, are you seriously suggesting that pre-Christian Europe was LESS violent than post-Christian Europe? Honestly, lad, that is quite ignorant.

  13. I meant to, but in my comment above I forgot to extend my observance of the “woman question” to antiquity, antiquity being another pillar of Bonald’s second approach above. The “woman question” bids us to reject antiquity, or at least hold it in suspicion, since back then, they assert, women were also treated subhumanly, held and sold as chattel, disenfranchised, etc., etc. Christianity is viewed simplistically as that which raised the status of women to be viewed as the human beings they in reality are (implication being that the rest of humanity, i.e., men, have always been seen in light of true human dignity, Christianity or no Christianity).

    Both this view, and the one I described in my first comment, make it more likely for a Christian to take something like Bonald’s first approach in relation to the “Others.” If it’s true that serious Protestants and Catholics are likely to adopt approaches 1 and 2 respectively, as Bonald has observed, I wonder if it is more likely for Protestants also to allow the “woman question” to bear more heavily on their choice of approach than Catholics.

  14. I will boldly suggest that the true enemies of the Christian reactionary are the Jews. Both institutionalized, anti-democratic liberalism and the “Islamic threat” are their creations. Subtract They Who Must Not Be Named from our institutional and policy-making aparatus, and both of those seeming problems magically disappear.

  15. Well said.

  16. Jews have always resisted God’s spirit. What prophet have they not persecuted? The picked Barabbas over Christ for crying out loud what more needs to be said? They hunted Paul and went berzerk when he told them God was sending him to the Gentiles. They routinely tried to manipulate the government into attacking the church. It’s a pattern, Christ’s crucifixion was a Roman deed done at the behest of Jews. And that was just for starters in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

    I wouldn’t go so far to say that the Jews are the true enemy because the devil has many minions, most of whom are not Jews. They are the backbone of the elite guards–small in number but with élan that shatters opposition. When there is a stronghold of Christian faith resisting the devil’s schemes, here come the Jewish Guards.

  17. I tend to think the Jews are just a wedge minority, an instrument used by liberals to batter Christian society. Without liberalism, the Jews wouldn’t be an issue.

  18. The following really belongs in yesterday’s thread, but also has implications here as well:

    In anathematizing Islam as heretical on the basis of its “unitarianism” in the face of Christian Trinitarianism, as has been done in some of the previous posts here – and the same could be readily extended to Judaism – it may be worth considering certain analogous points of comparison. First, the filioque controversy – the creedal inclusion by the Latin church that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Son as well as the Father – which led in part to the Great Schism of 1054 and the mutual excommunication of the Greek and Latin Churches, a break only partly healed nearly a millennium later in such formal rapprochements as the 2007 Declaration of Ravenna. Second, the claims of sola fide (by faith alone) and sola scriptura (by scripture alone) – along with the other three solas – that formed the theological basis of Protestant critique and rejection of Catholic doctrine and in turn informed the violent break with the Catholic Church, as formalized for instance in the 1545-63 Council of Trent, a break only partly healed nearly a half millennium later in such formal rapprochements as the 1999 Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

    At one point, all three Christian divisions – Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox – largely and mutually considered one another to be schismatic heretics; conversely, contemporary Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox may continually to mutually and at times vociferously disagree on matters of theology, but by and large they refrain from mutually anathematizing one another and more or less get along, sometimes quite cordially – this is true even on a “Christian reactionary” blog such as this, which is largely bereft of squabbling among members of Christian divisions. Are they wrong to do so? Should Christian divisions still be going at one another hammer and tongs? Even Unitarians, whose theological similarities to Islam have already been commented upon, have this cordiality extended to them.

    Given this, and admitting that the theological differences separating Christianity as a whole from Islam are larger than those theological differences separating Christian divisions themselves, nevertheless how does one theologically justify the drawing of a line of acceptance or rejection that places other Christian divisions than one’s own on one side and Muslims (among others) on the other? What degree of difference from one’s own theological understanding is sufficient to place another outside of the pale and how is this to be decided upon and justified? Is it not more reasonable to consider the matter as one of degrees of shading of difference rather than of absolute distinctions? This is quite apart from the question of how one is satisfied that one’s own theological understanding is correct and to be taken as the proper measure of comparison to those of others. Philosophy offers little assistance in either regard: recall that the classical philosophic tradition regarding the nature of God, as summarized, for instance, in David Conway’s brilliant “The Rediscovery of Wisdom: From Here to Antiquity in Quest of Sophia”, while strongly at odds with a secular, materialist understanding, does not by and large distinguish between the conceptions of the Divine in the three Abrahamic faiths.

    Is it possible that such a line of acceptance or rejection is drawn on the basis of considerations less substantive and defensible than one might care to closely examine? If so, is it impossible to conceive that such cordiality as has been found between Christian divisions might also be tentatively found between Christians and Muslims? Have the first movements towards such a mutual cordiality already been established in the context, for instance, of the aforementioned Common Word initiative (www.acommonword.com), including the Yale Divinity School response (www.yale.edu/faith/acw/acw.htm) and other responses from Christian leaders (acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en&page=responses)? Certainly, there is historical precedent to be found for such mutual cordiality, should one care to admit and examine it. I will leave the matter there.

  19. I see that Justin and Tomás have made my point.

  20. Liberalism was explicitly devised as the political philosophy of English Non-Conformists, in other words, a religious minority that wished to restrict the authority of the state over religious questions. Locke is the great spokesman of that movement. It came into being at the end of the English Civil War, when educated people were beginning to accept that religious pluralism was a permanent feature of English life and sought a way of accommodating it.

    Today is Bastille Day and it is remarkable how prominent Huguenots (who made up about 4% of the population – less than half the number of practicing Catholics) were in the National Assembly and its successors. Rousseau, of course, was a liberal Protestant and a citizen of the Free City of Geneva; it was his Contrat Social that became the handbook of the Jacobins..

    Naturally, Liberalism was readily embraced in the United States, where no sect commanded majority support nationally.

    Puritanism being the religion of the literate commercial classes, it is not surprising that they embraced economic Liberalism, too.

    Liberals demanded a “private sphere,” where the state provided a legally codified order within which social customs, economic competition, religious beliefs, and so on, could be pursued without becoming ”‘political.”

    In Europe, they were comprehensively routed by Socialists on the Left and Nationalists on the Right, for whom everything is political. Here, the Liberal State is seen as an interlude, between the Absolutist State of the Enlightenment and the Total State of the 20th century. No political party in France would call itself “liberal”

  21. Bonald, you are being much too kind. That is your prerogative as host, I suppose, but someone needs to say:

    The idea that the Jews created liberalism is false. Mere timing forbids it: no Jew was intellectually important in the West until well after liberalism was a going concern.

    The idea that the Jews created the Islamic threat is either false (if you mean the widespread but wrongheaded idea that Israel is the only reason Muslims are angry) or ludicrous (if you mean that the Jews somehow created Islam).

  22. Craig, you are forgiven for being unknoweldgable of the role of Jews in the modern leftist establishment. After all, it is a taboo subject. Without Jewish activists, Jewish lawyers, Jewish judges, and Jewish financing, it is impossible to imagine our current public policies. Jews have been at the forefront of EVERY single effort to dismantle “traditional Christian America.”

    I encourage you to research it before you condemn it. The facts are quite eye-opening.

  23. That’s right, Phil. You pagans got your asses handed to you. Don’t mess with us Christians. While you worship your female deities, we train in the manly arts of war. Bwahahahahaha!

  24. […] Bonald has described this choice as largely separating along Catholic/Protestant lines: In practice, the Christian reactionary usually takes one of two positions. […]

  25. Very interesting to read. I can but read with a deep interest, as an Orthodox, what Catholics and Protestants write about this.

    Two points I would like to make:

    1 – Hillaire Belloc linked Protestantism with liberal economy, and that is very much true. Indeed, some of the roots of liberalism have to be in the Reformation, since both a practiced liberal economy and a relative religious pluralism (inherent to the US) arose from it.

    2 – C. S. Lewis, an anglican, took, I suppose, both positions. He, being a specialist in Antiquity, talked more about the link of Christian and pagan traditions. But I can see many “it is understandable” in his works towards liberalism. He called the state a “necessary evil” and in “Screwtape prposes a toast” he write that demons dissaprove of English Christian socialism.

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