The Breadtube’s Struggle against Cultural Christians
Mocking ‘cultural Christians’ and ‘Postmodern Conservatives’ is all the rage among the bien pensant left. The low-key complaints ring true only to the most superficial hearing. ‘Hey maaan, these guys don’t really believe in God or Christianity, they just want to belong to a cultural or religious ethos. That’s, like, inauthentic! It’s like… this pseudo-religion will do more harm to Christianity than atheism and cultural critics ever did! I’m like… can’t you see religion is just the latest hieroglyph used by rightwing opportunists to advance a more HOMOGENEOUS society, so they can escape the anomie and atomisation brought about by Capitalism?!’
It is strange to notice the left’s sudden interest in the authenticity of religious belief. Every cultural studies freshman learns that ‘authenticity’ is merely a longing; that any experience can be authentic and inauthentic at the same time. Authentic – because we believe in emotivism – if you experience something deeply, it must be genuine and no one has the right to question it. Inauthentic – because all cultural artefacts copy and re-purpose existing ones; there’s no original, no telos, no virtue, no right or wrong way to behave in any given circumstance; it all boils down to your subjective momentary desires.
I’m also shocked to see raging anti-theists who have harnessed their entire intellectual horsepower to expose the oppressive and toxic nature of all forms of organised religion – decades of motivated reasoning – all of a sudden worried that ‘cultural Christians’ are spoiling genuine forms of religiousness. Or claim that this perverted form of belonging will harm religion more than anticlerical or explicitly anti-theist movements have throughout the last 2 centuries.
You’ll see through the apparent sophistication of these arguments when you realise they can be employed against all forms of belief and belonging. That they are the result of a pulsating societal force resembling entropy; demanding everyone to give up their promises and agreements and melt down in a pleasant psychedelic ecstasy. Any belief system can be declared ‘inauthentic’ by invoking an infinity of reasons. Purely emotive, fideist Christianity would be deemed ’emotional self-redemption’ – and thus, inauthentic, while intellectual adoptions of Christian doctrines can be regarded as a dead forms, thoroughly falsified by those in possession of rational truth. Furthermore, they can accuse any belief system of imposing restrictions on individual behaviour and self-actualisation, thus preventing authenticity at the deepest psychological level. So they can play back and forth endlessly between congratulating and condemning anyone for their deeply held beliefs; the final goal is to just let go of ‘nomos’ and enjoy life.
Emotivism knows no commitments; not even ‘the sacred individual’ or ‘the subject with rights’. When there are no more institutions left to melt, it finds its delight in desecrating the human body, treating human life in demeaning ways and mocking the pursuit of beauty.
One could also emphasise the left’s double standard of deconstruction; a low hanging fruit by now. They wouldn’t think twice before labelling ‘Cultural Christianity’ as hypocritical and inauthentic, while refusing to cast the same judgement on Muslim or Jewish cultural adherents (Maimonides comes to mind and one could hardly accuse him of being Postmodern). They have the right to keep their cultures safe from the eroding effects of Western imperialism. This double standard too shall pass when these cultures will lose their flavour of ‘otherness’.
There are, however, Christians gullible enough to be convinced by these arguments. ‘The only reason why Scripture is important’, someone wrote, ‘is because God exists. Otherwise it can be dismissed. Cultural Christianity is ideology, not religion’.
Fundamentalism and Progressivism, always acting symbiotically! Are there non-cultural forms of Christianity, one might ask? Is the Bible not rooted in its historical period? Does it not contain stories with meaning, involving polemics between priests and prophets, invading armies and invaded peoples, kings and usurpers? Should we discard the Iliad just because we don’t know who Homer was? Or the Bible, because we don’t adhere to a rigid doctrine of divine inspiration or God’s existence?
Anyone familiar with the Intellectual Dark Web, the Rebel Wisdom podcast or any recent right wing or centre-right movement, knows that what unites all these people is the positive pursuit of religious belief. That’s why Jordan Peterson’s message resonated with so many. These are not cynical Machiavellian atheists using religion to cause division and anarchy. They are people who want to worship God and find peace with human existence, as imperfect and tragic as it might be. People who have lost every vestige of norm, tradition and belief – under the influence of endless leftist deconstruction – are now struggling to find their way to religiousness. Maybe you want to employ Peterson’s advice on ‘seeking what is meaningful rather than expedient’? The left will mock you and endlessly deconstruct the slippery notion of ‘meaning’. Maybe you want to return to an original Catholic belief? You bloody theocrat! They knew it al along. Maybe you want to re-interpret heathen customs and metaphysics and find some sort of contemporary relevance and a rooted existence? You hopeless nostalgic for an era that never existed! WW2 German, too!
In his book ‘Culture Counts’ Roger Scruton argues that after a civilisation kills its belief systems, it still retains the essence of its archetypes, core values and transcendental notions in its art forms. Criteria such as perceptual congruity, elevation and truthfulness have shaped the Western canon over the centuries, and therefore through art one can encounter divine beauty, truth and goodness in raw form, so to speak; without the explicitly rational dogmas formulated by the church fathers. Is this view antithetical to leftist precepts? Of course it isn’t when talking about exotic cultures, the sole guardians of authenticity. Employing rationality to deconstruct their doctrines is even regarded as an act of colonial hostility.
What about anthropological and psychological studies that show the undeniable benefits of organised religion, of a rooted existence based on accountability, loyalty and sanctity? From Durkheim to Putnam and Haidt, it has been consistently proven that religiousness, patriotism, localism and rootedness have overwhelmingly positive effects on the thriving of their practitioners. Are today’s skeptic or agnostic conservatives allowed to consider these facts and seek some form of cultural continuity? If they don’t attempt to lie about their lack of belief, what’s the harm in that? If, like Scruton, you find a more sophisticated form of belief like the Platonic god of ideal forms, Jung’s Self or the Transcendental aspect of reality, will the left regard you as a genuine believer rather than a cultural hypocrite?
The reality is obvious – the left was never concerned with authenticity and religious belief. Your good faith attempts to reason with them will be used as raw material for yet another Breadtube deconstruction series. The only metrics they will ever use are economic and material; as long as there are differences between individuals, as long as some humans are not in a constant Soma-induced state of satiation, their deconstructive struggle must go on. And it is precisely this struggle which kills gods, virtues and traditions.