So this is going to take a tortuous path. My brain works weird. But in nutshell, we’re discussing this:
And how to uncomfortably make it out alive. Let’s begin.
For one reason or another I’ve been watching the recent brouhaha around Vidcon. At this year’s conference, a certain wing of youtubers, the “skeptics” or “anti-SJWs” made their presence known. While overlapping a lot with what some would call the alt-right, the major hobby horse of these guys and gals is a rejection of at least the current trends in feminism and gender theory.
Scandal popped up in a few places, fed into by drama around a prominent feminist youtuber, Laci Green, “taking the red pill”, and things really hit the fan when another feminist youtuber, Anita Sarkeesian, called out one of her detractors in the audience in a manner unbecoming of a panelist discussing harassment. This fueled fire on both sides with each taking the moral high ground and it looks like the dumpster fire is only beginning.
Wasting time watching this trainwreck both on youtube and on twitter, I came across this little comment, put out by Anita:
The comment gave me a lot of pause. First of all, I’m fully on board with gender-segregated classrooms, though probably for reasons Anita would find atrocious. Single-sex education keeps kids from obsessing so much about the sexual “other” and (ideally) moves socialization between the sexes to the purview of the family rather than the unsupervised hotboxes of hormones and social anarchy that are school “cultures”. Basically, segregating sexes would allow us to reform traditional gender roles. Not a feminist end.
But racial segregation? This comment had Anita’s detractor reminding her of certain historical circumstances in the US. Like Jim Crow.
I was at first tempted to agree with those detractors. Then again, you have places like Evergreen State College. Here the yearly celebrated “Day of Absence”, where the school’s population is separated by race to reinforce the importance of an integrated community, became a sort of raucous sit-in including the pseudo-hostage taking of the cooperative president. The activists were predominantly of the typical “SJW” crowd. This was basically voluntary segregation, with calls for the removal of all perpetrators of “the patriarchy” from places of public worship, er, practice. If anyone disagreed, their opinions were deemed invalid if they were “cis”, “white” and/or “male” – depending on who it was, of course.
This just seems ludicrous. Wasn’t much of the history of the 20th century about removing barriers between peoples – men and women, whites and black, gays and straights, rich and poor? We’ve done a messed up job of a lot of it, sure, but what’s currently going on smacks a lot of resegregating the populace, of upending much of this work.
Further, while there are definitely white supremacists all in favor of it, this appears to be primarily an impulse from within the minority (now or soon-to-be diverse majority?) communities – a silencing of those deemed to be the children of the oppressors, inheritors of their mantle in a panoply of forms.
This call for some form of societal segregation isn’t only a liberal phenomenon. On “my side” of things, there’s also Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option and its variations. In a nutshell, it is call for committed orthodox Christians to recognize that our society holds values hostile to our own and to create intentional communities which can act as “parallel poleis”. Many only see it as withdrawal, which to some degree it is, but it is also about building communities which can be founded upon perennial human virtues and Christian faith. It’s a form of self-segregation.
That final point about the Benedict Option, building communities around some shared values, points to why this call for new forms of segregation are arising not from without but from within these communities. There has been a fallout, a collapse of any central values in our society. We don’t have much of anything that binds us beyond sharing the public spaces. Thus these communities see little to seek to integrate into – and some see what’s left of the center as something they don’t want to integrate into.
Our lack of shared central values is made worse by the existence of many opposing values among the various communities. Radical Feminists seek to create cultures where womanhood is valued without reference to masculinity. LGBT communities seek to make sex and gender personal decisions and expressions with little reference to the social role of sexual relations. SJWs are looking to build societies where historically oppressed minorities become at least vocally dominant and rectify the sins of the historically oppressive majority.
On the other side of the coin, the “anti” communities, seeking to push against the above, often glorify freedom – freedom of speech (libertarian) or of inquiry (skepticism), though it really boils down to freedom of conscience, where conscience is understood as following what you believe is right no matter what. These folk tend not to coalesce as much as the above, save in response to the above. They don’t share a predominant value save freedom, but in recognizing that another is having their freedom trampled (even if this freedom is being used in defense of an opposed value – see the odd bedfellows of right-leaning atheists and theists) they have come together as a force against the above.
Then you have the traditional Christian communities, which were dominant less than a hundred years ago and are seeking to hold on to that dominance (moral majorities and the like). Their thesis is that Christian values, if not Christianity itself, needs to be the central core of society. Even those still in favor of the separation of Church and State, still believe that some non-denominational or even non-theist “natural law” need to be at the heart of things. (Of course, that this “natural law” comes from the Christian tradition is just a happenstance… right?)
Upshot: The core values of these communities, the thing which defines their worldview, are incompatible. Thus they are seeking to at best withdraw from the infidel, or to silence them, or even to remove them. We’re seeking to segregate.
I think this is especially important for Christians to recognize. Dreher and others are quick to point out that traditional Christians are on the cusp of experiencing persecution. This is true, but it’s not because of the rise of some new moral majority. There may be such a majority around an issue like gay-marriage, but the divisions in our culture are so great that Christians will be persecuted for little reason other than being one among the many warring factions that need to be purged or silenced to restore social stability. The segregation we’re seeing is the beginning of this warring.
While this is scary, it also points out the direction evangelization needs to go. Christianity, and especially Catholicism, cannot limit itself to being a personal preference. Neither can it claim only to be an aid to societal formation. Rather, it must vocally claim to be the source of perfected society. It needs to preach the Church.
This is something that’s been elided since Vatican II. The push to “open to the world” as many read Gaudium et Spes to direct made us believe that we no longer needed to be a society founded on Christ, but rather a (growing?) part of the societies founded upon other values – whether that be national identity, freedom, race, interests, political movements, what-have-you. The Church was no longer to be the foundation of society, but simply a (hopefully important) voice at the table.
There’s a slew of reason for this reading, some I’m sympathetic to, most I’m not, but I’m not going to get into them. What’s becoming clear is that there simply isn’t a stable table anymore. What the “openness to the world” failed to realize then and is probably failing to realize now is that the world is not stable.
The West has spent the past five hundred years denying the Catholic Church as its point of the stability and descending into violence because of it. The west has then spent the last three hundred years denying Christianity and descending into violence because of it. And now the world has spent the last hundred years denying God himself and descending into violence because of it. The experience now is the painful place of looking around at the rubble and wondering what makes the foundation of a society.
The Church needs to be able to say “I AM.” I make society. We need to recognize that the world, without Christ and His Church, falls inevitably into chaos and brutality, segregating itself into oblivion, stabilizing only by violent force. This is not a call to be that violent force (though a little bit of defensive militancy would not be uncalled for), but it is a call to triumphant trust in God, Christ, and His Church to bring about peace in this world – “thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” Seek souls, yes, but seek to make them one-of-us. Not just another atomized person who claims to follow some Galilean’s 8 step program.
We need to be the Church, in all it’s triumphal Glory.
I have some disagreements with him, but Christians wanting to recognize something of how to do this, of how to live in a way that takes seriously their tradition as a basis for society, should look at Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option. I’m finishing it up now and will have some comments in a week or so. It points the way out of this segregating oblivion, though not a comfortable one (there is no comfortable one).