As a display of “America Standing Together,” “Everybody Pile on Falwell” was even more dramatic a spectacle than “Three Firemen Holding the Flag.” Following televised remarks by the founder of the Moral Majority to the effect that the terrorist attacks of September 11 conveyed God’s wrath against a nation that has been commandeered by heretics and Satanists promoting abortion, homosexuality, pornography, adultery, fornication, and other godless practices warned against in the Good Book, the establishment right, from President Bush on down to William F. Buckley, Jr., joined the shocked, affronted left in denouncing Falwell’s vulgar, divisive bigotry. (The prophet Jeremiah was thrown down a well for less.)
Granted—as pious critics pointed out—no man should presume to speak for God—unless, of course, he’s been divinely appointed to do so (a possibility left widely unconsidered in the case of the Reverend Falwell). Granted also, Jerry Falwell’s career has smacked more of the role of God’s publicist than of His prophet. Still, it does not take a prophet to recall God’s historical interventions against a people He wishes to chastise—just a Bible reader. And, if the notion of direct intervention in human affairs on the part of the Almighty offends your modernized theological sensibilities, there’s always indirect intervention to fall back on. (The flouting of God’s law produces a disruption in the divine economy that automatically results in bad things happening to nations and societies, good and bad people alike.) Falwell’s problem is that, while America—adept nowadays at ignoring the prophet and burying his message—is less and less alarmed by prophecy, it regards publicity (the sword by which Americans live or die) on behalf of anything it disapproves as the deserving target of a crushing counter-publicity campaign.
What Jerry Falwell was saying in his crude, insensitive, Old American way is that America’s principal enemy is what the country has allowed itself to become—not foreign regimes, armies, potentates, and terrorists who, actually or potentially, threaten the increasingly hollow shell of a once-great nation and people. And America has become its own worst enemy because its “leaders” have declared themselves to be God’s enemy—the enemy of the Christian Faith. It’s hard to imagine a professing Christian, whether born-again Protestant (like George W. Bush) or Roman Catholic (like others who deplore Falwell), disagreeing with this conclusion, but, it seems, plenty do.
When you carefully examine all that has been under attack by the left in America for the past hundred years or so and compare it with what the right (loosely speaking) has surrendered to it, you can see that the common thread linking these things is their connection with, or affinity for, Christianity. The deconstruction of America (and the West as a whole) places Western culture, rationalism, the rule of constitutional law, free markets, the white race (males in particular), sexual morality, the family, “patriarchy,” intermediate social institutions, moral restraint, and religious authority high on its agenda for destruction. But these are, in one sense, secondary targets, selected either for their (often unique) compatibility with Christianity or else as direct products or constructs of it. The story is reminiscent of a novel by Agatha Christie in which the murderer kills off a series of victims, chosen alphabetically by name but otherwise at random, in order to conceal the one murder for which he really had a motive.
The left attacks Christianity and its satellite institutions because they represent universal reality, which leftists despise, deny, and work to overthrow, in order to supplant it with a reality of their own making. But how has the left enjoyed so long and successful a run in this country and in Europe, where the majority of the people are not leftist themselves? How has the majority succumbed to the point where leftism is effectively the dominant culture of the West and of America? The answer is not primarily the lure of socialism, the nanny state or Big Brother, relativism, positivism, individualism, mass democracy, racial and sexual equality, one-worldism, and other leading idols of progressivism. It is the casual, almost careless revolt against Christianity by nations tempted by their governments into sloth, indiscipline, indifference, and finally unbelief in the Faith that, for 2,000 years, gave them their identity and their will to exist, as well as their historical success.
“My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Yes, they are, once you have learned to adjust the yoke and balance the burden comfortably; learning to do that, however, is hard—harder than a great many Americans whose ancestors carried the weight of the Cross without complaint are willing to accept. G.K. Chesterton observed that people who have ceased to believe in Christianity are in danger of believing anything, rather than nothing. In the same way, people who once knew how to bear Christ’s yoke with fortitude tend to discover, after it has become too burdensome for them to carry, that other things also seem impossible for them to bear—including the pain of being a man, or, at least, a certain kind of man. One reason why the United States is swamped by poverty-stricken Third World immigrants is that these nomads have imagined—through exposure in their native countries to American television, movies, music, consumer goods, and the amazing career of Bill Clinton—that America is the place to go if you wish to escape, once and for all, the human condition.
Since Al Qaeda’s attack last September, the United States has been awash with admiration and sympathy, not hatred and disgust, for Islam and Muslims. A similarly perverse—and totally unexpectable—reaction occurred in the early 1980’s when the discovery of the AIDS epidemic produced enthusiastic acceptance of homosexuals and a wild admiration for the “gay lifestyle,” rather than fear and loathing of them. In the wake of the American elite’s successful barnstorming campaign against “hatred,” “xenophobia,” “profiling,” and “bigotry,” post-September 11 opinion polls reveal a greater sympathy for, and interest in, Islam. It is entirely possible, as a result, that thousands of “Christian” Americans may become converts to what President Bush calls a “religion of peace,” as thousands converted to Buddhism or Taoism during the Vietnam War. Part of the allure that exotic religions hold for nominal American Christians is the perception that they impose no personal restraints, yokes, or burdens (e.g., chastity, monogamy, charity, orthodoxy) on their adherents—which, in the case of Buddhism, seems largely true. (A Chinese Buddhist of my acquaintance insists I can be a practicing Buddhist as well as a conscientious Catholic; my priest thinks otherwise.) Islam is notoriously strict, but it probably will not dawn on future American converts that, with respect to stated prohibitions (booze, ankles, razors, adultery), the mullahs mean what they say—until they have their heads lopped off by a hairy swordsman in the Safeway parking lot behind the local mosque.
An extreme example of primary anti-Christianity underlying secondary racial hatred is the revolt by an increasing number of American blacks against what they regard as the “white man’s religion.” The popularity of Kwanza, an aggressive emphasis on the erotic aspects of black Gospel worship that distinguish it from white religious services, and the cult of “Dr.” Martin Luther King, Jr. (plagiarist, serial adulterer and philanderer, and communist fellow traveler) suggest that a significant number of blacks in this country are ready to pawn the pearl of great price they snatched from chattel slavery. Like so many of their white counterparts, they find the Christian faith an unwelcome and annoying distraction from sex, crack, drink, basketball, the mall—and the propitiation of Our Father Who Art in Washington, D.C.
The left, with its deadly instinct for the vital spot, identified from the start what was easiest for potential adherents to hate and resisters to practice: biblical Christianity. What Pat Buchanan calls the “death of the West” has always been intended, fundamentally, as the eradication of the Faith. Another writer, Prof. Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, predicts in a forthcoming book (The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press) that the future of the Christian religion will have its locus elsewhere than historic Christendom. But that, of course, is another story.