Agony and Hope
Every so often a young-ish person wrings the hands in print about the difficulty of finding a marriageable mate in this culture. It’s a brave thing to do, really, because if done badly it can subject the writer to ridicule. In fact, done well it can subject the writer to ridicule, because it’s such a personal thing. There can be many reasons why a person who wants to marry can’t find the right person. We tend to assume it’s a matter of having unrealistic expectations, or, if not that, just karma. Bad luck, so far, or a mistake in hanging on to the wrong guy or gal for too long. It’s easy, therefore, to dismiss a complainer, if that complainer is looking. And those not looking probably aren’t complaining.
Despite all that, I think it’s legitimate to ask whether there isn’t something going on in our society now that makes it ever harder for someone, especially a Christian, to find a life partner. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the currents of modern culture make this goal more elusive?
I say this by way of introducing a relatively new blog site – not mine – on this subject: agonyandhope.com, which inquires into these sort of questions, for frustrated Christians who desire a traditional family structure, but can’t seem to make it happen. The underlying premise is that this is a generational frustration, a result of the ever-unspooling secularization of society. Marriage with traditional shared values is still possible, but probably not just by happenstance – one must be conscious of the hostile environment for it. If this is what you want, the dating pool is probably smaller than you realize, and more difficult to identify.
Faith, or faith in Faith
I commend to you a piece by Andrew Klavan, Can We Believe, at City Journal.
He starts out with Houllebecq’s Submission, which I reviewed last year, here. Klavan uses this as an introduction because it fits his theme. The protagonist in that novel, Francois (a stand-in for France) appreciates the Christian influence on the France he loves, but cannot bring himself to believe the tenets of that faith. Through personal dissipation and economic coercion, he turns his back on the faith that was formative to the culture of France, and toward Islam.
Klavan further describes this loss of confidence by quoting Marcello Pera in his 2008 book Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians:
“The West today is undergoing a profound moral and spiritual crisis, due to a loss of faith in its own worth, exacerbated by the apostasy of Christianity now rife within Western culture,”
* * *
“Without faith in the equality, dignity, liberty, and responsibility of all men—that is to say, without a religion of man as the son and image of God—liberalism cannot defend the fundamental and universal rights of human beings or hope that human beings can coexist in a liberal society. Basic human rights must be seen as a gift of God . . . and hence pre-political and non-negotiable.”
Pera, however, is an atheist. His argument is for acting as if we believe, not that we actually believe.
This is a common theme, in philosophy of the last 150 years or so, particularly. If you read closely the philosophers who acknowledge the Christian antecedents to core Western values, you may note that many of them don’t actually say we should believe Christ actually rose from the dead. They just worry about what happens to us as human beings if we don’t look to God, whether He is there to be seen or not. I’m thinking for example of Matthew Arnold, Max Weber, and Charles Taylor. If you want a popular contemporary example, consider Jordan Peterson’s outlook on the factual truth claims of Christianity, as Klavan does.
Klavan gives a valid rendition of what he calls “the Enlightenment Narrative,” something necessary to what I’ve elsewhere read as “the Enlightenment Project.” The narrative is an interpretation of history that tells us that following the fall of the Roman Empire, and with it classical (pagan) times, the western world descended into superstitions, cruelties, and close-mindedness, in large part as a result of Christianity. The Enlightenment era, starting with the humanism of the Renaissance, breathed much-needed rationalism into this fetid darkness. By hyper-rationalism we come out of those superstitious and cruel times, and into the buoyant light of modernity. Something like that. The Enlightenment Project is a project of finally extinguishing, once and for all, the false candle of Christianity.
With that understanding, Klavan argues this: “the modern intellectual’s difficulty in believing is largely an effect created by the overwhelming dominance of the Enlightenment Narrative, and that narrative is simplistic and incomplete.”
I encourage you to read the whole thing, I think it will be worth your time.
I don’t write much about Trump, but I read recently a Brit’s description of why he is so hated across the pond. It was cleverly written, but I’m sorry, I can no longer locate it for you. I tried, but there is a vast sea of essays out there about why he’s so hated by the British.
Of course many Americans hate him, too, but I see a difference in the Trump-bashing essays. Most Brits find him personally odious, and their criticisms mostly end there. Many Americans feel the same way, but are more likely to focus on his policies.
I think this is an important distinction, because many pro-Trumpers look past his piggishness only because they find the legal, political, and cultural trends he stands athwart to be even more odious. Here’s Rod Dreher’s expression of this (with reservations), from his blog of May 29, 2019:
“Longtime readers know that I’ve been down on the Republican Party for years. . . . I almost always vote Republican in national elections, not with any enthusiasm, but because on the issues I care about most — abortion, religious liberty, and various “social” concerns — the Republicans are better than the Democrats. I was no fan of Donald Trump, considering him to be a vulgar, crooked, unstable and unprincipled politician whose chief virtue was that he wrecked the Republican Party establishment. That, and the possibility that he would appoint good judges. Well, he has generally appointed good judges. But I remain Not A Fan, and the GOP has not distinguished itself by forging a new kind of conservatism out of the rubble demolished by Trump.”