Oh, to be innocent.
Innocence excuses every excess, every error, justifies every act, however unjust.
Think: He started it!
This is bad enough when dealing with small children, and one for which the correct response is usually I don’t care who started it—knock it off!, but in adults, arguing over politics?
It will surprise exactly none of you that I am skeptical of the notion of innocence in politics; in fact, it has no place. There is no political action without complicity: to make demands is to take responsibility, to legislate is to compromise, and to lead is to maneuver.
You can be good, in politics, but you cannot be innocent.
Which is why I’m not much moved by yelps from the likes of Rod Dreher that (almost) anything Christian conservatives do to resist anything queer is justified because, wait for it, the queer folk started it.
This is all over his blog: Well, okay, maybe in the past one or two people were mean, but now, the social justice warriors are all hellbent on attacking us poore wee Christian folk.
I want you to notice something. The Left always accuses the Right of advancing the culture war, even though it is usually the Right playing defense. The pharmacists’ situation is a classic example. Nobody in Washington state had the slightest problem finding
RU-486 Plan B. If they couldn’t get it at the Stormans’ pharmacy, there were plenty pharmacies nearby where they could. Conscience exemptions are standard nationwide, and state and national pharmacy professional associations filed amicus briefs supporting the Stormans. Nobody wanted this regulation, except the Jacobins of the Sexual Revolution.
Now, I get that, on many sexual issues, the Right may feel under siege: same-sex marriage is now a constitutional right, trans issues are on the rise, and the death of Scalia (with a likely replacement by a Democratic nominee) means the wide latitude often afforded to mainstream Christianities is likely to be trimmed back.
These are losses.
But that one has lost does not mean that one is innocent—losing hurts, but it neither purifies nor sanctifies—or that playing defense somehow makes you more righteous than those on offense. The mere fact that one is fighting to advance or fighting to defend is morally meaningless.
What is meaningful is the cause you seek to advance or defend.
Now, Dreher, in advancing his Benedict Option (as a defense against degeneracy), clearly believes his cause is just—boy, does he believe it
You may not be interested in the Jacobins, but the Jacobins are interested in you — and your children. We must fight them every opportunity we get, but we have to know what we’re fighting for, and we have to know how to continue the fight underground if we are ultimately defeated.
Leaving aside the infinitely more important cause of the eternal fate of souls, there is the matter of making sure that there are people alive in the generations to come who can properly bear witness to the past — not just the particularly Christian past, but to Western civilization, the civilization that — I speak symbolically, of course — came from Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem. We fight for Christian civilization itself, which includes what emerged from Moscow too. And therefore we must fight against the nihilistic successor civilization of New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and Brussels. We fight for the Paris of St. Genevieve, not the Paris of Robespierre. Modern civilization has no past, only a future. If our civilization is to have a future, it must be rooted in our past. We must remember our sacred Story.
I believe we will have a future, and I will fight for that future by fighting to keep alive the memory of the past. I won’t stake my life on defending New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and Brussels, but I will stake my life on defending Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and Moscow. That’s where the battle is. It’s a battle taking place in every city, town, and village in America. Which side are you on?
—but that it is a defense grants it no more moral urgency than, well, the Jacobin advance.
Dreher, like every other partisan, believes his cause urgent and just, but being knocked off one’s pins doesn’t make the cause more just.
If that were so, then no political victory could be just, and every political loss, a tragedy.
A slaughter of the innocents, indeed.