The collapse of our liberal order is upon us. As expected, many liberals assign the blame to Christian conservatives. We are the ones waging “forever” culture wars that prevent society from progressing, diversifying and becoming more inclusive. We are the ones who use culture as an identity marker to impose our “illiberal” agenda on America.
These outlandish accusations prove that there is a reaction to the nation’s moral decadence. There is principled opposition to procured abortion, the intrinsic evil of the LGBTQ lifestyles and Marxist critical race theory. Liberals unjustly label this principled opposition as rigid. Then, legitimate as this faithful resistance is, they lump it together with crazy ideologies linked to racism, nationalism and identitarianism. Their next step is to weave fantastic conspiracy theories to fuel their rage against those who dare to oppose moral decay.
Traditional Religion as a Tool of Tyranny
What enrages liberals most is the entrance of traditional religion, especially Christianity, into the debate. It is a powerful force because it implies a moral order that opposes the liberals’ immoral disorder. It assumes a loving God that created this order to ensure our happiness. Religion’s “backwardness” opposes the liberal misguided notion of the evolution of history to ever-greater progress.
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Thus, the liberal left does everything possible to avoid a moral debate by portraying religion as an authoritarian tool for dictators, Islamic terrorists and totalitarian regimes. The New York Times’ “moderate” writer David Brooks goes so far as to include Communist China as a “religious” regime because it adapts some Confucianist ideas to attack Western decadent and “sissy” mannerisms.
Thus, the debate shifts back to identity politics, Hegelian metaphysics and anti-racist babble that liberals love to use to frame the debate. They will never discuss the need for Christianity and an objective moral order.
The Liberal Place of Religion
Liberalism only tolerates religion that follows its rules. The rise of traditional Christianity enrages them because it breaks their rules. In a liberal order, religion is supposed to be limited to personal experience. It should stay out of politics and culture.
Indeed, modernity has treated religions no better than the Romans. The latter covered all their bases by putting the gods of conquered peoples in the Pantheon, where they might all be worshiped. At the same time, its bacchanalian society partied its way into moral rot and ultimate dissolution.
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In our present liberal society, religion is likewise sidelined. Each religion is like an idol tucked away in a constitutional Pantheon where it can do no “harm” to the general public. As long as religion follows these liberal rules, the party can keep on going.
No More Social Capital
That is not to say that Christianity, even in its pantheon form, has not positively affected society. The liberal order has coasted a long time on the vast social capital of a vaguely Christian moral code. This Christian influence secured the conditions for order and material progress throughout our modernity. However, that social capital is now exhausted, and there is no regenerative force that liberalism can call upon to bring about a return to order.
Liberals solve the problem by calling for more liberalism. They blame Christian conservatives for breaking the rules and spoiling the party. They demand ever greater forms of depravity and ignore the chaos of a society that is falling apart.
The Problem with Pantheons
There is one problem with pantheons. The only God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, refuses to dwell there. Thus, there is always the possibility that a Pauline voice might cry out in our postmodern wilderness that it is time to topple modern idols and proclaim the one true God.
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We might well find ourselves facing the “Unknown God” about Whom Saint Paul speaks: “For passing by and seeing your idols, I found an altar also, on which was written: To the Unknown God. What therefore you worship without knowing it, that I preach to you. God, who made the world and all things therein, he being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:23-24).
From the true God who dwelt not in the Pantheon came the Catholic Church. From the Church came a marvelous Christian civilization that transformed the world. From this same God, we can expect a splendorous future.
Fear of the Unknown God
However, this God does not act like the idols in the Pantheon. He does not follow liberal rules. He is a jealous God who will not have false gods before Him.
Indeed, that is why liberals fear this Unknown God Who does not fit in their pantheon. They sense that the collapse of the liberal order involves much more than the shattering of a political or economic system. They perceive the exhaustion of our atheistic materialism and its inability to satisfy the existential yearning of countless souls who seek something more but, above all, something higher.
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Likewise, conservatives perceive their reaction as much more than just opposition to our decadence. They are sensitive to the voice of Grace calling on them to love and worship the unknown God. The movement to defy the culture reflects a growing thirst for sublimity and a return to the one true God by a sizable minority that seeks Him like the repentant prodigal son.
Thus, the polarizing collapse of the liberal order represents movements inside society beyond culture or politics. It involves something so foreign to our modern ways of thinking that we dare not speak about it openly. Both sides sense the rumblings of a jealous Unknown God Who now desires to make Himself known.
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