Rod Dreher has a scathing and important review of the new book by Andrew Isker, The Boniface Option, which riffs on Dreher’s own 2017 title, The Benedict Option. I have read the latter, but not the former. So, I’ll leave it to others to determine how accurate the review is. But Dreher’s piece is important in its own right as a diagnosis of a broader phenomenon, namely, the very online angry young men who are so attracted to the Christian Nationalist cause. Here are a few relevant lines from Rod’s post:
Isker is “not interested in thinking and conversing, but only emoting and getting high-fives from church bros for owning the libs. I can’t emphasize this enough: The Boniface Option is a book for angry young men who enjoy being angry, young, and male.”
“Again, every page of The Boniface Option bristles with intense anger. Over and over, Isker says that we must train ourselves to ‘hate’ — but he offers no advice on how to keep that hatred of evil from turning into hatred of human beings, or the hatred from poisoning one’s heart. One gets the clear impression that he thinks hatred in defense of holiness is no vice.”
“In the end, I know very well what Andrew Isker hates, but I have no idea what he loves. I know what he thinks war should be like, but I can’t figure out what peace is to him, other than the vanquishing of his enemies. I know what his idea of justice looks like, but I can’t see even the slightest hint that mercy matters to him.”
Again, these are problems that are broader than any one author or book. The Christian Nationalist Right, or whatever we want to call it, has a Christian virtue problem. They revel in transgression–in hate and name-calling, not to mention the often overt anti-semitism and racism–and call it courage and faithfulness.
What use is Christian Nationalism if it isn’t even Christian in any demonstrable sense of the term?
Incidentally I’m reading Benedict XVI’s final writings, and it’s striking how different his perspective is from the Protestant Nationalist/Catholic Integralist tendencies that are so en vogue in certain corners of the Christian internet. Ratzinger, of course, knew the problems of modern liberalism well. And he, too, was concerned that Christians stand strong against the cultural pressures–like the Maccabean words of defiance, “We will not obey the king’s words.” But the “zeal” of the Maccabeans “is not the form in which Christian zeal is expressed. Authentic ‘zeal’ takes its essential form from the Cross of Jesus Christ.”
Christian responses to what Ratzinger often called the “dictatorship of relativism” must be, well, Christian, which is to say, they must be cruciform. More Ratzinger:
“As far as the truth is concerned, I would simply like to defer to Origen: ‘Christ wins no victory over someone who is unwilling. He conquers only by persuasion. Not for nothing is he the Word of God.’ But at the end, as an authentic counterbalance to all forms of intolerance, stands Jesus Christ crucified. The victory of faith can always be achieved only in communion with Jesus Crucified. The theology of the Cross is the Christian response to the question about freedom and violence; and in fact, even historically, Christianity won its victories only thanks to the persecuted and never when it sided with the persecutors.”