By Tom Piatak
Stephen Wolfe, a Reformed Protestant, is under withering fire in certain Reformed circles for his book The Case for Christian Nationalism, in part because he quoted the late Sam Francis, perhaps the greatest conservative intellectual of the past 50 years. One of the ways the Pecksniffs of Protestantism targeted Wolfe was by ending the livelihood of Thomas Achord, Wolfe’s friend and fellow Christian. Achord lost his teaching job because of a largely-ignored pseudonymous Twitter feed that has been inactive for roughly a year and a half. The usual suspects are involved in these attacks, most notably the unpleasant Catholic turncoat Rod Dreher, who for some inexplicable reason has a platform at the largely irrelevant The American Conservative.
Attacks similar to the one launched against Wolfe and Accord have been launched by both Marxists and “respectable” conservatives against any number of people who dare suggest that perhaps — just perhaps — “diversity” is not “our greatest strength,” evinced some sympathy for America’s white, Christian past, or, worst of all, argued that America can have a future still shaped by what has always been its core population: white Christians.
The three principal critics — American egghead Kevin DeYoung, English egghead Alastair Roberts, and again, egghead Rod Dreher, who abandoned his country — are entitled to their opinions. But they are not entitled to rewrite history by pretending that the Christian Faith is or was hostile to nationhood and a strong sense of ethnic identity, then use that rewritten history to attack and/or socially, professionally, and financially ruin those with whom they disagree. Nor are they entitled to mislead fellow Christians by peddling that falsehood in a scurrilous attack on two patriotic Americans.
DeYoung Vs. Wolfe
Wolfe’s book argues that the United States is and should be a specifically Christian nation, and that a man quite naturally loves those around him more than anyone else. It has received good reviews from serious thinkers. Yet writing for the self-proclaimed “Gospel Coalition,” DeYoung attacks Wolfe for not making it “clear exactly what he is or isn’t arguing for (especially when he quotes approvingly from Samuel Francis on VDARE.com).” By making things “clear,” DeYoung means that Wolfe didn’t spill enough inky tears over the sins of Western Christendom to prevent anyone from concluding that Wolfe is secretly harboring nostalgia for a place as white and Christian as Eisenhower’s America, Churchill’s Britain, or some such wicked place.
DeYoung is not exactly clear himself why it was so wrong of Wolfe to quote Francis at VDARE.com. Indeed, he doesn’t bother telling readers what Francis said. For that, one must go to Wolfe’s book to find this quote from a column in 2004 that can be found, among other places, at VDARE.com: “‘Tribal behavior’ is what makes human beings human. Take it away from ‘man’ or ‘humankind’ and what you get is not ‘pure man’ or ‘liberated man’ but dehumanization, and, from that, tyranny.”
Here is what DeYoung didn’t tell readers: Francis’ column concerned the War on Christmas, a topic VDARE first raised in 1999 and that I first wrote about for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture in 2001 (Happy Holidays? Bah! Humbug!). Francis devoted five columns to the subject, beginning with one in which he quoted my piece at length. In one column, he praised Charles Krauthammer’s defense of the public celebration of Christmas. But he also criticized Krauthammer for being “incapable of saying flatly and clearly that while Americans certainly enjoy a right to practice whatever religions they wish, Christianity remains the public religion of the nation—whether one believes in it or not or likes it or not.”
It is precisely because Christianity is vital to our national identity that there is a war against it, and that’s the reason also there is now a nationwide resistance to that war by Americans who wish to conserve our national identity.
Francis had far sharper disagreements with Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne. For Dionne, the central issue was the unquestioned right of “religious minorities” and “nonbelievers” to avoid being reminded of a holiday they don’t celebrate. But Francis saw no reason why Christians should keep Christmas under a bushel basket:
The controversy is about whether Christians can celebrate or even observe in public their own religious holidays in a country (or even local community) that is overwhelmingly Christian and has been throughout its history. …
Why do such minorities invite themselves into a society in which they feel alien and then insist the majority abandon its religious beliefs and national identity so the minority can feel at home?
Francis also challenged Dionne’s assertion that Christians who defend the public celebration of Christmas “are behaving not as Christians but as a tribe.” Thus, Francis responded, leftists worry about “tribal behavior” because “they imagine there is this creature called ‘man’ (or nowadays ‘humankind’) that can somehow be separated from tribe-nation, religion, community, ethnicity, gender, history, culture.”
Francis cited the famous aphorism of Joseph de Maistre: “During my life I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, and so on … but I must say, as for man, I have never come across him anywhere.” Then comes the quote that so upset DeYoung:
“Tribal behavior” is what makes human beings human. Take it away from “man” or “humankind” and what you get is not “pure man” or “liberated man” but dehumanization, and from that, tyranny. That’s exactly where the war against Christmas (and similar wars against other expressions of “tribalism”) is heading.
Thus, the one Francis quote that the self-proclaimed “Gospel Coalition” and its fellow travelers use against Wolfe does not attack the Christian Faith, but instead defends it. And its context had nothing to do with race. Indeed, Francis’ columns on Christmas show that, for my old friend, the principal problem of our dismal times was not the age-old desire of one tribe to replace another, but the desire to replace all the many tribes of man with a universal tribelessness:
But in most cases of the war against Christmas, those waging the war don’t have any civilization at all. What they have is the globalist-humanist peanut butter of the New World Order, where no one has any nation, religion, race, or heritage and we all vegetate together as “Humankind.” …. Real civilization isn’t about and doesn’t revolve around the oleomargarine versions of Christmas, and the fake “civilization” that the multiculturalists and multiracialists babble about and try to force everyone else to observe never created anything. No one ever fought for it or died for it or even planned their schedule around it, so almost by definition it can’t possibly produce anything like a real holiday. Nobody, except the thin-blooded munchkins who created it, cares a hoot about it.
The brilliance of Francis’ insight has only become clearer in the intervening two decades. While Francis drew insight from the Catholic genius Joseph de Maistre, Dionne relied on Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote that “the chief source of man’s inhumanity to man seems to be the tribal limits of his sense of obligation to other men.” Niebuhr’s quote completely overlooks the malign effects of ideology, which is the devil threatening to tear America apart, not “tribalism.” It also overlooks the true genius of historical Christianity, which succeeded in imposing duties of charity that transcended tribal divides without devolving into the suicidal universalism Wolfe and Achord rightly reject. As Blessed Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński put it in a 1976 Christmas Eve talk to Polish priests, “Let us not succumb to the temptation of saving the world at the expense of our own homeland.”
In addition to being suicidal, universalist ideology is also producing, as Francis predicted it would, a culture that only a “thin-blooded munchkin” could care about. Cities around the globe look vaguely the same, and more and more people live lives devoted to the consumption of shoddy consumer goods that also are all more or less interchangeable. Can anyone name a single work of painting or sculpture produced by that same homogenized culture that will be remembered a century from now, much less producing feelings of awe a millennium from now?
If you believe in a globalized culture of universal mediocrity that produces schlock for the lowest common denominator, then you might have reason to worry about Wolfe. But if you’re proud of your own racial and religious heritage, then you have nothing to fear, even if you are so gauche as to be a white American Christian.
The bottom line on DeYoung is this: far from proving that Wolfe is a racist for quoting Sam Francis, DeYoung ends up proving that Francis was, as he was so often, absolutely right.
Robert and Dreher vs. Achord
But as bad as De Young’s review was, the actions of Roberts and Dreher were infinitely worse. Despite what they say elsewhere, their actions show that neither man is particularly concerned that our Ruling Class views the core of the native population in the United States with contempt. The same people whom Obama chided for being “bitter” and “clinging to their guns and religion,” and that Hillary Clinton called so “deplorable” that no one should seek their votes, are now being excoriated by Joe Biden for embracing an “extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” Given these views, Biden and other politicians react to news stories about the declining numbers of whites in America, and a rising death rate for middle-aged white men, the same way London reacted to news of famine in Ireland and St. Petersburg reacted to news of mass emigration from Poland. They’re relieved that a lingering problem is being solved.
Roberts was born in the Republic of Ireland to a father who “planted” a Reformed Baptist Church in Clonmel—a town that inflicted heavy losses on Oliver Cromwell’s army just after the massacre in Drogheda. Roberts has been a member of the part of the “Gospel Coalition” that looks at the Catholic Church into which Joseph de Maistre was born, and that Francis joined on his deathbed, with deep skepticism at best. Despite showing exquisite sensitivity to the concerns of numerous other groups, this is the sort of material Roberts has posted about Catholics:
- Are Popish errors liable to set men up for damnation?
- Should we pray for the demise of the Roman Church?
- Are Catholics Christians?
Roberts’ answers to the questions, in short, are “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Generally, No.” That gives you an idea of where Roberts is theologically. Although moving in a more pro-Catholic direction than others in good standing inside the “Gospel Coalition,” Roberts’ basic view seems to remain that, generally speaking, Catholics are not fellow Christians unless they are also bad Catholics who reject “the Popish errors that are liable to set men up for damnation.”
On November 27, 2022, Roberts charged that Thomas Achord, one of Wolfe’s associates, held “segregationist or white nationalist views.” Roberts unearthed these views in a pseudonymous Twitter account, dormant since August 2021, that “only had around thirty followers” at its peak. Concluding that Achord was the feed’s author required scouring tweets and Facebook posts, analyzing screenshots of deleted comments from both, and researching the online accounts of everyone who liked, forwarded, or commented.
Many are indeed repulsive. Others are not. Among the tweets that made Roberts’ bowels quiver was this: “Voting for Trump is to vote against [the] sick white liberals who join Antifa or who silently wink at their collaboration. Voting Trump is a pro-white vote against anti-white whites.” This statement is offensive only if whites are not allowed to think of themselves as whites, vote for what they perceive to be white interests, or even vote against candidates openly expressing the anti-white sentiment that now dominates elite discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. No other group is held to such a standard. Apparently, the role of whites, at this point in history, is simply to disappear without any fuss. Roberts’ actual forefathers felt exactly the same way about Irish Catholics.
Not one of these largely unread tweets caused any laws to be enacted or any policies to be implemented. Indeed, we have zero evidence that they changed a single mind on any matter of national importance. They became the subject of numerous articles for one reason. And it’s the usual reason the hitherto unknown thoughts of hitherto little-known conservatives become national news these days. They can be used to scare Americans from reading someone who might say something useful about contemporary America, an increasingly depressing place where, despite the good news that, at the personal level, race relations have never been better — a substantial number of American families include marriages across racial lines and even more Americans have strong friendships across racial lines — millions of Americans have become convinced that their country has always been a place of great evil. It’s so evil, in fact, that millions of white Americans have become convinced that they have no heritage worth celebrating, no identity worth preserving, and nothing to contribute to the country founded by their forefathers except to go gentle into that good night without ever once raging against the dying of the light.
Now, like DeYoung, Roberts is alarmed that Wolfe and Achord cited Francis, in this case his theory of anarcho-tyranny. Numerous writers have acknowledged that Francis’ concept describes conditions in contemporary America. But Roberts does not even attempt to argue that Francis was wrong in developing the concept or that Wolfe and Achord err in applying it. For Roberts, simply knowing about it proves that a person is inimical to the “Gospel.”
“I have no desire to deplatform people and strip fellow Christians of their livelihoods,” he unctuously declared, knowing full well that is exactly what he desired to do. He needed to ruin Accord’s life because “many who oppose us believe Christian nationalism — indeed, any retrieval of the great Christian and Classical traditions that shaped the West. … [is] nothing more than a fig-leaf for white supremacism.” Roberts’ theory is this: The best way to convince leftists — who produce thousands of op-eds, lectures, movies, books, and tweets that denigrate the West, disparage its achievements, and demonize whites — that classical Christian education is not another manifestation of “white supremacism,” is to give Achord’s tweets the widest publicity and the worst interpretation imaginable. Tens of thousands of 3-year old children grasp realpolitik more firmly than Roberts.
Roberts believes that “the Classical and Christian traditions themselves overthrow the need for … ethnically or racially separate countries.” Yet he provides no support for this radical claim. He does not point to a single nation in which the dominant ethnic population changed without the nation itself radically changing or even disappearing. Does Roberts really think that England would still be England in any meaningful sense if 75 percent of the population were Pakistani, spoke only Urdu, and practiced Islam? Does Roberts really think that Italy would still be Italy in any meaningful sense if 75 percent of the population were North African, spoke only Arabic or Berber, and practiced Islam?
And to plant my flag in Roberts’ home … does he believe the Republic of Ireland would be independent today if the Irish had become Protestants in the 17th century and freely intermarried with Protestant settlers from England and Scotland? As an Anglican egghead, Roberts might not be bothered by the prospect of an Ireland that had more or less followed the historical paths of Scotland and Wales. But, as an American Catholic who has benefited enormously from a school system substantially established and maintained by Irish Catholics, I take a rather different view.
But let’s move on to Dreher, who is, if possible, worse.
A triumphalist convert to Russian Orthodoxy, Dreher generally disdains the Catholic Church and is often very impatient with those of us who refuse to follow him into Orthodoxy. Dreher has also left America and has no plan to return. Strangely, his new home is in Budapest, the capital of a country where the Eastern Orthodox constitute a nearly invisible 0.1 percent of the population. It is also the former seat of power for the Habsburgs, for centuries the continent’s principal defenders of the Catholic Church. If Eastern Orthodoxy is the only beacon of Christian truth left, wouldn’t Dreher be happier in someplace shaped by Orthodox spirituality, such as Omsk?
Although posturing as an opponent of “cancel culture,” and fretting on November 30 that the Left “unpersoned” Princeton classics professor Joshua Katz, Dreher spent November 27 and November 29 celebrating that he and Roberts “unpersoned” Achord.
“Achord’s career as an educator is over, and his name is ruined,” Dreher bragged, and that’s a good thing:
I know the dynamic here, because I wrote for years about the Catholic abuse scandal, and heard the same kind of protests from Catholics who tried to minimize the evil of it all, and the damage it caused to real people. They wanted to keep it all quiet, or at least minimized, because they thought it compromised the mission of the Church.
Other than giving Dreher an opportunity to take another swipe at the Catholic Church, his statement completely missed the point.
The problem with the Catholic Church’s response to the sex-abuse crisis was not the desire to avoid scandal. The problem was, in too many cases, scandal was avoided while nothing was done to prevent future abuse. If the bishops had stopped it, few people would complain simply because they stopped it quietly. That they stopped the abuse would have been sufficient.
The conclusions Dreher drew about Wolfe and Achord are even worse. “You can’t be so closely associated in your professional activities with a radical racist and not have it call your own morality into question,” Dreher huffed. So Dreher’s plan to deal with tweets no one would even know about — absent Roberts’ bizarre plan to publicize them — is to launch yet another witch hunt based not on what someone argues in public, or even states in private, but on who he has as a friend:
If Wolfe is professionally associated with a racist anti-Semite, I’d say it’s perfectly fair to ask what he knew and when he knew it.
And there you have it: a tactic the Southern Poverty Law Center routinely uses to deplatform conservatives. Even knowing someone can be a reason to ruin them. Ruining people’s lives over things their friends have thought or said is more evil and reprehensible than anything Achord said in the offending tweets, and I found many of them quite offensive indeed.
One wonders what offenses Roberts and Dreher will use to indict right-wingers 10 years from now. Having a picture of Christopher Columbus in the living room? Doubting that the world of Wakanda is real? Buying pink items for baby girls and blue ones for baby boys? “Conservatives” like Dreher explain why the conservative movement, obsessed from the beginning with maintaining its respectability, has totally failed at conserving anything other than the left’s monopoly to define the bounds of acceptable public discourse via the ability of groups such as the egregiously misnamed Southern Poverty Law Center — the Center is enormously wealthy — to summon mobs baying for blood with little more than an e-mail or two to its shills in the media.
Indeed, these attacks, which brand Wolfe and Achord as thought criminals, are nearly identical to those the SPLC routinely launches against anyone proposing to take action to stop or even slow the radical and by now intentional demographic transformation of America. But Wolfe and Achord provide nonpareil examples of where political discourse in this country has gone, now that self-proclaimed conservatives have made it clear, by their deeds, that the most important task for “conservatives” of their ilk is to ferret out any conservative who thinks that the America of 1953 was, on the whole, a better place to live than the America of 2023.
Even worse, the attacks on Wolfe and Achord have come from those who make their living by professing belief in Jesus Christ. These critics’ actions offer no evidence that they believe in extending Christian charity to anyone to their right, and demonstrate horror at the ideas that actually undergirded Christendom for most of its existence. Nor do they seem interested in forgiving Achord for his trespasses, real or imagined, despite his public apology.
For the benefit of DeYoung, Roberts, and Dreher, here is a simple truth that history shows us: Fierce Christian nationalism and love for broader, even universal entities, are not mutually exclusive.
People who believed that Ireland should be run by the Irish alone (and still wanted the remaining six counties back) had no difficulty also belonging to a visible, universal Church, serving as missionaries carrying the Gospel to every corner of the globe, and maintaining long-standing cultural ties with Flanders, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina.
They also turned a football team at a school established by French priests into a unifying symbol for American Catholics of every conceivable ethnic background, and in the process even made a national hero of a brilliant football coach who began life in Lutheran Norway and ended it clutching his Rosary in a plane crash. Today, fans of the Fighting Irish include Catholics in Nigeria, whose patron is St. Patrick. Catholic Ireland even produced, in the American South, Father James Coyle, a martyr to the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching that a difference in race is not an impediment to marriage.
It is very late in the day for America. It is far too late to worry about respectability, or for spying on other conservatives who once knew someone who entertained unorthodox or even evil thoughts. It is also long past time for conservatives to stop accepting, much less enforcing, a standard of judgment that grants “racists” no possibility of forgiveness for saying the wrong thing, or even knowing the wrong person, decades before, while enforcing no standard, let alone punishment, on leftists for their sins of the past.
Politically, the only issue that matters now is the survival of the nation to which Roberts never belonged, and that Dreher has left.
As I have argued elsewhere, the examples of Ireland and Poland suggest that Wolfe, who wants our country to survive, and believes Christian nationalism provides the means to do so, is on to something. In any event, he deserves great praise for devising the strategy and tactics to preserve America without conceding leftist ideological talking points.
De Young, Roberts, and Dreher, on the other hand, deserve nothing, except perhaps to be stranded for a week or so at the hotel hosting the latest conference of the Gospel Coalition, listening to nothing but each other’s endless bloviating, and reading nothing but each other’s interminable scribbling.
Preferably in Omsk.