My last post drew on Ross Douthat’s observation that martyrdom is so unthinkable in the world-view of the modern West that some Catholics are refusing to refer to an obvious martyr as such. The myth is more important than the fact.
That doesn’t mean we should fall into the opposite trap of condemning all things modern and contemporary or pine for an idyllic past that did not in fact exist. It also doesn’t mean that we should exaggerate the threats of our present time and place: I expect to one day die in a hospital bed pumped comfortably full of drugs right here in the good ol’ USA, and being a coward I much prefer that to dying for my faith in Mosul or Syria.
But it does mean letting go of illusions about the permanence of the present political order. A political order can be more or less adequate for human flourishing, and such an order should be loved, appreciated, and protected form threats, but it isn’t eternal. For a good long while enlightenment ideas and Christian ones coexisted side by side in America to the point that it was easy to confuse the two, but the paths are diverging, Christian influence is fading, and the split will come.
Here in the U.S. we are facing something of an apocalypse, that is, a great unveiling or disillusioning, as we exercise our right to vote between a giant douche and a shit sandwich for President. If this is the best our nation could come up with then there is something seriously wrong. Trump is the post-Christian right. The left has been post-Christian for some time.
The post-Christian future of American politics will be some version of this:
To paraphrase Orwell, the future will be a sweaty third-wave feminist screaming in your face… forever.
It is a great moment to revive Christian pessimism. If I were a member of the clergy I’d be preaching every day on Ecclesiastes.
I’ve blogged in the past about how I believe things will be more difficult for committed Christians here in the U.S., not in the sense of being killed for their faith but in the sense of having to make more choices that render them conspicuous and, to a degree, marginalized. It will be the price to pay for holding onto Christian community and tradition.