The Future of American Conservatism

Should conservatives become martyrs?

DECEMBER 21, 2020

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA


“The Last Days of Donald Trump” show is careening toward its final, farcical episode. Part Jacques Clouseau and Chauncey Gardiner, Trump continues to channel his inner Peter Sellers into a preposterous mash-up of Being There and The Return of the Pink Panther. Today, even Pat Robertson - yes, that Pat Robertson who once argued COVID would go away if we stopped going to gay weddings - acknowledged that Trump “lives in alternate reality” and is “very erratic.”

But for all the absurdity of this uniquely American drama, there remains one serious question: What becomes of American conservatism in a post Trump age?

Today, the self-styled American “conservative” and “orthodox Christian”, Rod Dreher, came onto my KEEN ON show to discuss his new book Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents.

Dreher’s argument is that America is on the brink of what he calls the “soft totalitarianism” of a Woke dictatorship enforced by progressive capitalists like George Soros and billionaire technologists like Mark Zuckerberg. We are all, he warns, about to become like the Evangelical owners of that Indiana pizzeria who, supposedly, had their restaurant shuttered because they wouldn’t do the catering for a same-sex wedding (what is it with “Christians” and gay weddings?)

So what to do? Dreher argues that serious Christians like himself need to suffer a bit for their beliefs. In his Manual for Dissidents, he likens the situation in the America of 2020 to that of a post 1945 Eastern Europe under the yoke of Leninist totalitarianism. American orthodox Christians need, then, to become dissidents in spirit of those East European Christians who resisted the Soviets.

It’s an intriguing thesis - especially since it appropriates the anti capitalism and anti Big-Tech of the left for conservative ends. But there’s an ominous subtext to Dreher’s argument. This idealization of Christian opposition to 20th century totalitarianism conveniently ignores the shameful role of the church - particularly Quisling clerics like Josef Tizo in Slovakia - in working with the Nazis and sending tens of thousands of Jews and homosexuals to their deaths. And it may not be coincidental that it’s that all-too-familiar Soros/Zuckerberg axis which is, once again, supposedly to blame for our collective moral decay.

So, no, I don’t think Rod Dreher’s call for Christian martyrdom offers a convincing argument for a post Trump conservatism. Like Donald Trump, Dreher might indeed be living in an alternative reality. Maybe he should start going to some gay weddings.