Can America withstand China when forces within are promoting identity politics on right & left?
How Christian Nationalism presents issues with creating winning electoral coalitions.
Restoring a corrupt state.
Despite the gloom, America remains a shining city on a hill. It is a beacon of liberty. It also remains a citadel of Christianity in the waning West. Yes, it has flaws. Yes, leftists are grooming children and enforcing LGBTQ ideology. However, rebuilding and restoring order out of this chaos should be our aim. This is harder today than in earlier times because moral corruption is more extensive.
“Where corruption is universal, no laws or institutions will ever have force to restrain it. Because as good customs stand in need of good laws for their support, so laws, that they may be respected, stand in need of good customs,” (Machiavelli, Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius: The 1531 Nonfiction Political Analysis of Classical Republicanism Annotated, p. 92).
This creates a problem as the system rewards electing ever worse people. Machiavelli explores in this same chapter of Discourses how to restore liberty in a corrupt state. His outlook is gloomy because good men rarely have the capacity to act in the manners necessary to take power and then use that power to restore liberty and order.
“Since the restoration of a State to new political life presupposes a good man, and to become prince of a city by violence presupposes a bad man, it can, consequently, very seldom happen that, although the end be good, a good man will be found ready to become a prince by evil ways, or that a bad man having become a prince will be disposed to act virtuously, or think of turning to good account his ill-acquired authority, (p. 95).
In other words, there are very few Washingtons and many more Cromwells.
How do we then restore America so that we may enjoy liberty where the Gospel can be preached freely to all without encumbrance? A good start is understanding something about movements attempting to reclaim America. For example, Christian Nationalism.
I called Christian Nationalism a threat to national security in my essay for American Reformer. It was buried relatively deeply in the 4,300-words I sent them, so I wanted to highlight that here. You can read my warnings about Christian Nationalism, Divide & Rule: The Problems of Christian Nationalism and then come back here for a few other points about my critique. Key points here: Christian Nationalism is about dividing, which makes America weaker, and Christian Nationalism jeopardizes chances to build electoral coalitions that ignores the lessons of politics.
Division is bad for America
Many of the leading voices of Christian Nationalism champion the idea of balkanization. Of course, the example of the Balkans seems to warn against balkanization. Instead of creating smaller and smaller identity groups, the creation/rediscovery of a national identity would reduce the threat of disorders. Encouraging balkanization seems unwise.
I want to highlight how the balkanization of Christian Nationalism is a rightist version of identity politics. This is to be expected. As Francis Fukuyama noted in Identity, “The dynamic of identity politics is to stimulate more of the same, as identity groups begin to see one another as threats” (p. 122). By fostering a sense of grievance, some on the right want to awake among white evangelical Christians an identity that is different from the generic American identity.
This is an inevitable outcome of the leftist project that encourages balkanization into smaller and smaller segments of aggrieved minorities. However, white evangelical Christians have been a bulwark of the national American identity since the founding. What happens when this erodes, and evangelicals no longer view themselves as American but an oppressed minority?
As every group begins to see other groups as a threat, the result is a loss of trust. Again, as Fukuyama explains, “A fourth function of national identity is to promote a wide radius of trust. Trust acts like a lubricant that facilitates both economic exchange and political participation” (p. 130). Loss of trust among Americans makes America weaker. It makes America weaker economically. It makes America’s institutions weaker.
Woke ideology is one thing that makes America weaker just as it must face growing threats from totalitarian forces like the CCP. The alienation of conservative evangelicals from an American identity will do the same.
Finding cobelligerents in the Culture War
One thing to fear about Christian Nationalism’s establishment of a state church LARP is that not only does it needlessly create division among Christian denominations but that it drives a wedge between conservative forces regardless of the religion. I deal with this in the essay but wanted to expand on something that the editors mercifully cut from the already too long essay. I argue that Christians can and should consider working with conservative Muslims to fight LGBTQ insanity.
Frustrated by sexual deviancy, Muslims in America are a force galvanized to fight. In October 2022, Muslims protested LGBTQ books in Dearborn, Michigan schools. According to reports, “Many of the protesters carried signs in English and Arabic: ‘Keep Your Dirty Books in the Closet,’ ‘Stop Grooming Our Kids,’ and ‘Homosexuality Big Sin,’ some read.”
Islam is a growing religion in the United States. It represented 3.45 million in 2017 and is projected to continue its increase. Is it wise to alienate potential Culture War allies at a time when evangelical political reach looks to decline with the aging evangelical population?
History shows that Christians and Muslims can make common cause against shared geopolitical threats. The history of France is illustrative of how the Catholic Prince built alliances with Muslims and at times even Protestants for political aims. Francis I concluded a Franco-Turkish alliance to balance against the Hapsburgs. Cardinal Richelieu worked with non-Catholics to protect France. Richelieu encouraged Louis XIII to support Protestants to balance Austria’s pretentions to European (and Catholic) dominance. “Had not King Solomon and King David themselves resorted to the help of miscreants in their fights against enemies? Richelieu asked the king in order to justify these alliances,” according to Jean-Vincent Blanchard’s Éminence (Kindle 2438.) Louis XIV was happy to exploit Hapsburg distraction in wars against the Turks to expand French dominance.
If these types of alliances of convenience can work in geopolitical settings, can they not also operate in America? Perhaps. So, why forestall any such attempts by giving our political opponents even more ammunition for them to scream: “They are just trying to create a theocracy.” Yes, they are going to yell that regardless; however, why provide them with evidence to substantiate that claim?
Richelieu’s advice is wise. Sometimes, even the best of us must work with “miscreants” to achieve good ends. If one does not compromise on doctrine or fundamental rights, building a broader combination should be the goal of politics. Unfortunately, some on our side appear to only want to divide. That’s a plan for defeat.
Conclusion: When the enemy wants to divide you, don’t let them
Leftists have worked to divide America since at least the 1960s. This accelerated with the dominance of Critical Theories in America’s elite institutions. So, if leftists want to divide you—to balkanize you—why accelerate that process?
Balkanization will yield chaos. Dividing too much will make it impossible to live in a democratic and republican society. There are good arguments that the left has already crossed this Rubicon. However, much of America remains silent watchers. They wait, either unaware of the dangers or unable to make a choice.
This group can be rallied to specific causes on the right issues. It won’t always be easy. It won’t always be the perfect policy choice. However, the perfect should not become the enemy of the good. One does the best one can in politics and to insist on the perfect policy or politician is to waste lives. Look back at how many “Christians” refused to vote for Donald Trump in 2016 because he was “sinful” and yet it was Trump that appointed justices who were pivotal in overturning Roe.
The Christian engaged in politics must always keep in mind that the hardness of men’s hearts limits what can be achieved. If one understands this fact, one can then tailor political actions to attain the best results.