For many members of the so-called New Right, one thing is clear: Classical liberal principles are not getting the job done.
The left, after all, has no compunction about using the state to go after conservatives. As far as those illiberal progressives are concerned, Catholic hospitals should be forced by law to perform abortions, and social media companies should be threatened with regulatory action if they don’t agree to scrub their platforms of ideas and information unfavorable to the Democratic Party.
So instead of a principled commitment to limited government and individual liberty, the argument goes, conservatives who “know what time it is” should be willing to use public power to attack their foes. Anything less amounts to unilateral disarmament or even suicide.
The stakes, in this telling, are existential. It’s not uncommon to hear that a future of Soviet-style persecution awaits those who refuse to embrace a sufficiently “muscular” response. A New Right influencer once told me that the liberalism of the American founding, by making conservatives squeamish about fighting fire with fire, was apt to land her in a gulag. Like the famous maxim from Game of Thrones, it’s a vision of politics as a literal war in which you win or you die.
…Perhaps the leading argument for classical liberalism is that it turns down the temperature of our politics. By ensuring that the rights even of minority groups are respected, good institutions can remove, or at least significantly reduce, those supposedly life-or-death stakes. Meanwhile, Americans by all accounts want a government that protects basic rights and liberties, not one that imposes a single moral orthodoxy on the country, however much some progressives might wish to do so. Given all this, perhaps the worst thing conservatives could do is to tear down the liberal institutions and norms that keep the left’s worst impulses in check.
New Right rhetoric is saturated with talk of the need to restore traditional Christian virtue, by force if necessary. Several prominent New Right voices, including law professor Adrian Vermeule and journalist Sohrab Ahmari, are Catholic converts who dream of subordinating civil government to the church in pursuit of “a public square re-ordered to the common good” and possibly even “the eventual formation of the Empire of Our Lady of Guadalupe.” At this year’s National Conservatism Conference in Miami, a major New Right gathering, one speaker after another lamented “the things that we’ve lost” under liberal modernity: God, Scripture, nation, family.
The irony is that the approach to politics outlined by these new, militant conservatives is flatly at odds with authentic Christian virtue. The New Right implies that religious traditionalists have a choice: They can either be the ones inside the gulag, or they can make sure their enemies are. Jesus never would have accepted that bargain.
Stephanie Slade | “Against Game of Thrones Christianity'” | January, 2023
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