The liberal project, born of the Renaissance and matured upon the blood of the Enlightenment always has had at its heart the desire to set free the individual from the situatedness of life in which people were conceived and birthed into. Liberalism taught its padawans that the greatest freedom was freedom from any identity that wasn’t freely chosen by the autonomous sovereign self. We can hear this theme in the cry of the sans-culottes; “No God, No King.” Self chosen identity, quite apart from any outside imposed or inherited identity would not be allowed.
With this flight from all situatedness institutional identity markers that had been held for centuries as the cornerstones of the Christian faith were attacked. The liberal vision attacked the natural bonds of family, community, and nation, setting the atomistic self free to rearrange these bonds in any order the new liberal man might see fit. With the flowering of the liberal vision came the end to the trustee family, the end of localism, and regionalism, and the end of the sense of belonging to the land and to the people. All of these were exchanged for the right of the sovereign self to choose his/her own identities. For the new liberal man the glue that would hold new social orders together would be abstractions like “liberty,” “equality,” and “fraternity,” and not a people, a place, and a present informed by God’s Word as it shaped the generations prior. For the new liberal man there would be “liberty leading a generic people” but there would be no fathers who would be heroes, no space which would be Holy, and no concern about leaving an inheritance behind for our children. The liberal demand for equality eliminated father heroes, Holy Space, and inheritance left for those who belong uniquely to us.
Liberalism rearranged reality in order to create a society where the new liberal man was not burdened by any previous situatedness. The new liberal man was a self creating God who could leave behind “belongingness” to pursue the happiness needs of the sovereign self. The new liberal man was a rights-bearing individual who conveniently was absent of any duty-bearing obligations to a prior received situatedness. With every success of the new liberal man came the necessity to push the boundaries even further in terms of how the new liberal man could create his/her own rights and reality.
However, snapback always comes. The pendulum can only go so far before it begins to swing back and it is that swing-back that we are seeing among some of the young men and women of the West who are crying out for an older view that goes behind liberalism. The Trad-West crowd are awakening to understand that reality and social organization predates their arrival and they long for the situatedness for which the new liberal man had such disgust. The young Trad-West crowd are reaching back for a stability that comes with faith, family, and place. Many of the Trad-West crowd don’t understand that only Christianity can give what they desire. They are properly put off with the “Christianity” that has been in service of the new liberal man’s vision of liberty, equality, fraternity and so have an animus towards Christianity. Part of the challenge for the Christian faith is to communicate that it is Christianity alone which teaches that human beings are not the sum of their autonomous choices. Only Christianity consistently forswears the liberal (and Pelagian) anthropology that insists that humans are defined through acts of individual choice and self-expression alone. Only Christianity teaches original sin, sin nature, and then tells how situatedness can be beautiful for the Redeemed community. Christianity teaches that all men were born into a set of beautiful “givens” and that man is responsible to honor and cultivate that situatedness ordained and bequeathed unto him by God Almighty. Christianity with its covenant theology provides a way to embrace kinship, and descent as norms without family, people, nation or race becoming idolized. Christianity teaches a particularity of people, place, and patrimony which ought to have placed an properly ordered affection that properly prioritizes our people, our place, and our patrimony. All of that is hated by the liberal vision that is constantly bleating about the dangers of “identity politics” or the dangers of “racism” or the dangers of “Kinism.”
The liberal order is ending, though it is kicking and screaming as it is being pushed off stage. Thankfully, we will never go back to some kind of caste system where we are locked into a place that we can never be rescued from because of our family line. However, just as clearly, we are moving away from the liberal vision where the atomistic sovereign self choose and creates his own destiny quite apart from obligations and responsibilities to the situatedness in which he was born. The absolutizing of freedom characteristic of the new liberal man has created a social order where people are isolated, lonely, and miserable. The absolutizing of freedom characteristic of the new liberal man has created a nostalgia for belongingness that is natural and not contrived. There exists now among many a desire to return to thick identities explained by the belongingness that is a consequence of family, place, patrimony, and most of all by the reality that it is God who places men in families.
Liberalism, with its insistence that it would not be satisfied until the last King was strangled with the entrails of the last Priest dealt itself its own death blow as it sought to tear up the very roots of human identity. Liberalism was the vision of rending every natural (and Biblical) source of human belonging into a thousand pieces in favor of unnatural and so disordered affections. Liberalism pitted freedom and order against one another and gave us a freedom that was the worst bondage of all — the bondage of that absence of natural belonging.
The modern Church in the West seems to miss much of this. There is, among the modern clergy, a knee-jerk reaction against all that would stand for ordered affections as being distinctly Christian. The contemporary Church in the West is a liberal Church at its core as seen by its disassociating itself with books like “Who Is My Neighbor,” which demonstrates that Christianity has never been in favor of the new liberal man. The modern church — even in its most conservative expression — cringes at the notion that men owe a special allegiance to their own people, place, and patrimony that they don’t owe to the stranger and the alien. And this even after it has been insisted that love for one’s own people does not mean hatred for those who are not one’s own people. The “situatedness” that we are advocating for is essential for what it means to be human. As such we are no longer making mea culpas for advocating a social order that God has ordained and we are no longer acting ashamed because we are no longer adherents to a Christianity that is more Rousseau than it is Jesus Christ.