There is much in this book worth thinking about and reflecting upon, even if one may well end up having almost as many questions as answers after going through its 480 pages. I still have a number of very real questions and do not agree with everything being said. A number of further articles will be needed to fully and properly present what he is saying, and how I might react to it. This is a significant and valuable volume looking at some key issues and questions that have been debated for many centuries now.
This book is getting a lot of attention – and opposition. But it is worth being aware of:
In America at least plenty of folks are talking about ‘Christian nationalism’ – usually used as a term of abuse and derision. The secular left (and some Christians) see it as some sinister plot along the lines of what is found in The Handmaid’s Tale.
So when a Christian author comes along seeking to make the case for Christian nationalism, all hell tends to break loose. Already a number of books have appeared on this, both pro and con. The most substantial and significant volume seeking to make the case for it is by Stephen Wolfe.
This is the second of several pieces that looks at his new book which is getting a lot of attention, as well as causing no small amount of controversy. Given that it is a tightly argued and carefully crafted work of nearly 500 pages, dealing with rather complex and difficult topics, a short review can hardly do it justice.
Thus I am doing a series of articles on this volume. Yesterday I looked at one particular aspect of the book.
Here I just want to offer some big-picture preliminary thoughts, before I can even attempt to try to both describe and assess the case he is seeking to make. So here are some prefatory remarks that are worth making. Stay tuned for future articles which will be a bit more in line with a proper book review.
Before I go any further, let me make one minor criticism. This large book has no index. So before I could adequately discuss it or properly review it, I had to create my own index. That I did over a 24-hour period, listing at least the major issues and points of note. In what follows I will include page numbers along the way.
And before listing my preliminary concerns, let me try – as foolish as it might be – to give the skimpiest of outlines of his case. It would run something like this:
- There was, even before the fall, the need for some sort of social organisation and order.
- Love of family, kinship, and even liking one’s nation are not necessarily bad things (although they can become bad).
- There is no neutral public square. If it is not one informed by Christianity, it will be informed by some other competing worldview.
- There is a place for like-minded Christians having communities and nations reflecting their beliefs and values – including the use of civil rulers to help affirm and maintain this to some extent.
Wolfe says his intent is this: “[M]y goal is to reinvigorate Christendom in the West – that is my chief aim” (119). But that term, like ‘Christian nationalism,’ needs to be carefully defined – which Wolfe seeks to do. However, as mentioned, I will seek to tease all this out much further in some sort of proper book review – or two! So stay tuned. But here are a few prefatory remarks.
First, this is an important book. That is because it deals with some very important topics, especially including the two things we are NOT supposed to discuss in polite society: politics and religion. These are topics that have been discussed for millennia by philosophers, theologians, historians, political scientists, and ethicists. They are bound to be big topics, and thus not easily digested or understood in short sound bites or quotes.
But to say this book is important is not to say that I necessarily agree with all of it. Das Kapital is important, as is The Origin of the Species (not that I am lumping Wolfe’s book in with these two). One can differ quite a bit with significant titles. But they are worth being aware of and interacting with.
Also, like most authors writing about such topics, there will be a starting point, a worldview, or a set of presuppositions that guide the writer. If one has fundamental differences with those starting points, then chances are the argument as a whole may not be embraced.
Wolfe certainly has his own points of reference. First of all, he is an American, and much of this book of course reflects Christianity in America, along with the rest of the West. In many respects America did have a unique founding – many would argue a Christian founding – so those from other nations may not be fully in sync with what is being presented here.