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  • Writer's picturethinkoutsidepoliti

Civilizationalism and Confederacy

"Christianity and civilization are inseparable," argues Andrew Beck at the American Mind. Assuming that he is not denying the existence of eastern, non-Christian civilizations entirely, Beck must be referring to Western civilization, or perhaps European civilization. If so, his comment sounds a bit like Hilaire Belloc's observation that "Europe is the Faith." And, given the decline of Europe since its post-war loss of faith, a credible case can be made for that proposition.

Centuries ago, it was common for Europeans equate Christianity with "civilization" understood as the Christian world over and against "barbarian" foreigners. Beck seems to share that view. Indeed, when Beck says "Our God has already proven Himself throughout history as being a God not of a nation or a church or a kingdom, but a civilization," he sounds more like a European Crusader than a modern American Christian.

If one assumes a European perspective, much of what Beck argues makes sense. For instance, Belloc would likely agree with Beck that nationalism "can only be a stepping stone toward the ultimate goal" of "harmonious Christian civilization." In Europe, rising nationalisms (like in Hungary, for instance) are often associated with, if not an actual revival of Christianity, at least a desire for a revival of the cultural importance of Christianity. From the perspective of a Beck or a Belloc, such revolts against a spiritually-dead European Union must be mere stepping-stones toward a renewed pan-European "Christian civilization."

Just how "Christian" Beck's civilization would be, however, given that its citizens are "try[ing] their luck with Atheism or Islam" is a bit of an open question. Belloc would likely agree with Beck's subsidiarity principle (i.e. a "loose union of localized states with concentric rings of representative governance"), but Belloc would have the advantage of retaining the Catholic dogma upon which such social policy is based. Can a principle shorn of its foundation long stand?

Beck insists that using federal power to legislate Christianity is a "Christian nationalist pipe dream." But, would Beck's political program be any more acceptable to the atheists or cultural Marxists who oppose Christian Nationalism? Would atheists tolerate Christian leaders from another district imposing abortion restrictions on their women? Would Marxists bind their own hands and agree to stay within their "concentric ring" on any matter whatsoever? History suggests otherwise. The cries for freedom by Christian nations desiring to run their own affairs went utterly unheeded by totalitarian Communist regimes. Perhaps Beck is the one who is dreaming.

Both in Europe and America, nationalism and Christianity were the forces that opposed communism, demanding their own rings of representation. If the cultural Marxism infecting Western institutions is ever defeated, it will be by these same forces. This is natural, since a willingness to stand up for a "ring of representation" for oneself depends on having a shared sense of self.

America has no such sense, Beck argues. American unity is an "illusion." One might think that so bold an assertion—which implies that "United States of America" is a misnomer and that the "We the People" in the Constitution was a figment of the framers' imagination—might need some justification. No justification is found in Beck's piece, however. Beck merely asserts that American unity begins with the Civil War and is sustained solely by continued warfare.

Even if Beck' claim about America's unity were the whole story (it isn't), it would not follow that America could not, therefore, be a nation. Nations are often forged out of the shared experience of sufferings and victories. But, according to Beck, America "grew up too fast" for this to happen. As evidence, he points to the failure of a Bush/Obama-era "second Reconstruction." I will happily agree with Beck about the failures of Bush and Obama, but, it is exceedingly strange to attribute Bush's failure to nationalism or Obama's failures to an overabundance of unity.

Beck's desire to replace America's national government with an an EU-style confederacy that tolerates enclaves of Christianity is "not defeatism," he insists, even though his primary justification for advocating such a position is that Christian Nationalism "has as much chance of winning as reparations has for the Left." The irony is, unless Christian nationalism starts winning, no part of Beck's liberal political vision is likely to have a place in American governance in the near future.

Many of Beck's political principles are good ones. It is unfortunate that this kernel is embedded in a thick husk of neo-confederate nonsense about how America carries the torch of "Christian civilization" once held by European Christendom. Inasmuch as this idea represents a historically relevant perspective of Americans, it is one that was rightly defeated by President Lincoln's Republican nationalism. It should stay dead.

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