William Lind hopes for a spiritual revival in the West

Summary: William Lind looks for solutions in an unlikely place to the West’s deep problems. Like me, he moves beyond diagnosis of problems – complaining – to seeking solutions. More people doing this would start a new era for America. It won’t be easy.

Martin Luther started the Reformation on 31 October 1517. We can do it again.
Martin Luther starts the Reformation in 1517

A Second Reformation?

By William S. Lind.
From Traditional Right • 10 October 2018.
Posted with his generous permission.

Rome has fallen.

Beginning in the 1960s, most mainline Protestant churches fractured over two divergent understandings of Christianity. In one camp are those who believe Christianity was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, in Holy Scripture, and in the traditions of the early church. The duty of present-day Christians is to pass that heritage, unaltered and undiminished to future generations until the Lord comes again. In the other camp are those who believe the faith must reflect the Zeitgeist, altering itself as necessary to maintain a broad appeal. They see revelation as an ongoing process in which new commandments can override old.

Under a veneer of unity, this same tension has been present within the Roman Catholic church. With the release of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s recent letter attributing priestly pedophilia to a widespread toleration of homosexuality among Roman clergy, the fracture is in the open. The Zeitgeist has proclaimed homosexuality normal and, as in the mainline Protestant churches, the faction within the Roman church that follows the Zeitgeist must follow suit. To traditional Christians this is anathema. Rome appears headed for schism. This may be good news.

A schism within the Roman church and the emergence of a sizable Roman “continuing church” would create the possibility of a second Reformation, with the difference that this Reformation would unify rather than divide. “Continuing church” Protestants and Catholics would have more in common with each other than with modernizers in their own denominations; the same would be true for the other side. It is conceivable that Catholics and Protestants could unite in two new churches, one reflecting Zeitgeist, the other upholding traditional Christianity.  Given the number of both Catholic and Protestants traditionalists, a new, united “continuing church” might be the larger – large enough to wield substantial cultural and political power.

To be sure, the obstacles would be significant, especially for the traditionalists. Traditional Protestants and Catholics would each have to look back before the Reformation to find common ground. Protestants would have to accept a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist and adopt a valid liturgy for their communion services (even some Baptist churches had liturgy up into the early 1900s). Catholics would have to share the Apostolic Succession with non-Catholic male clergy and forego requiring that Protestants accept the innovations arising out of the Council of Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II. The Holy Spirit would have to do some heavy lifting to make a union come about.

What might be the strategic implications of such a second Reformation? Since the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, the West has discounted religion as a strategic factor. But at present, the primary strategic weakness of the West is that it no longer believes in itself. Western culture’s will to live died in World War I, in the mud and slaughter of the Western Front. After the Somme, Verdun, and Passchendaele, the best lacked all conviction. Fascism attempted to recover by exalting the will, but fascism failed, felled by its own errors. And so today as the old West, Europe, is invaded by hordes of mendicants from strange cultures, the European elites offer their countries as doormats.

The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society
Available at Amazon.

As Russell Kirk wrote, “Culture comes from the cult.” Religion has been at the heart of most, perhaps all cultures since human culture arose. While the First World War collapsed the West’s faith in itself, the religion at the core of Western culture had long been under assault by rationalism. Fractured by the first Reformation, the church could no longer speak with the united voice necessary to reply convincingly (about this, see Brad S. Gregory’s recent book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society).

To Descartes’ “Cogito ergo sum,” a united church would have answered, “Non est. Deus cogitavit, ergo es.” {Ed: per the comments, that means – “Wrong. God thought you, therefore you are.”}

How can Western culture recover the will to live when, in Europe, the churches are empty because most of the clergy no longer believe the Nicene Creed, while in the U.S. many of the most popular churches preach a therapeutic narcissism that has little to do with taking up your cross and following Jesus? Among the ruling elites in both Europe and America, Christian faith is regarded as spiritual eczema, an unfortunate condition to be covered up in public. It can have no role to play in strategy; the very notion is absurd.

This, then, is the potential strategic significance of a second Reformation, one that unites all traditional Christians in one church: the West’s recovery of the will to live. Far from being strategically unimportant, religion is now as it always has been, one of the most powerful strategic factors, a lesson the Islamics teach us regularly on our own soil. Culture comes from the cult, and a united church, marching as to war, could revive Western people’s’ belief in their culture and in themselves.

Deus vult.  {“God Wills It”, battle cry of the First Crusade.}

—————————————-

Editor’s comment

Spirituality has often been a decisive factor in history. It is dying in America, and people tend to despise values that they have lost. History suggests that “culture comes from the cult” {aka religion} has been said by many philosophers and historians, including Arnold Toynbee and Russell Kirk. The concept was developed and popularized by Christopher Dawson, as in this often-quoted excerpt from his Gifford Lectures.

“A social culture is an organized way of life which is based on a common tradition and conditioned by a common environment. …It is clear that a common way of life involves a common view of life, common standards of behavior and common standards of value, and consequently a culture is a spiritual community…. Therefore from the beginning the social way of life which is culture has been deliberately ordered and directed in accordance with the higher laws of life which are religion.” (1947)

Lind looks to a future when Christianity again becomes a powerful force in the West. See this posts about feminists’ conquest of Christian churches in America.

More broadly, Lind and I have followed similar analytical paths over the years. Odd, considering our different philosophies and beliefs. Now we’re both searching for solutions, moving beyond description and diagnosis to seek paths to a better world. At some point descriptions of problems become whining. Pouring more water on a rock does not make it wetter.

The key is forming alliances: different groups who have found their common interests and decide to stand together. It has happened before in American. It can happen again. Here is a possible. example.

William Lind

About the author

William S. Lind’s director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. He has a Master’s Degree in History from Princeton University in 1971. He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 to 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 to 1986. See his bio at Wikipedia

Mr. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook (1985), co-author with Gary Hart of America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform (1986), and co-author with William H. Marshner of Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda (1987).

He’s perhaps best known for his articles about the long war, now published as On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009. See his other articles about a broad range of subjects…

  1. His posts at TraditionalRight.
  2. His articles about geopolitics at The American Conservative.
  3. His articles about transportation at The American Conservative.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Christianity, about Reforming America: steps to new politics, and especially these about our divisions and how to overcome them …

  1. DEFCON 2: both Left and Right have turned against us.
  2. Hot political rhetoric & fake polarization make us weak.
  3. Our elites reveal their plan to govern America: divide and rule.
  4. Fighting America’s dark side. Fighting against those seeking to divide and weaken us.
  5. Tribalism and racism are the 1%’s best friends.

The best book about the roots of our spiritual weakness

Closing of the American Mind
Available at Amazon.

Closing of the American Mind

By Allan Bloom.
“The brilliant an controversial critique of American culture with nearly a million copies in print.”

This is my top recommendation of a book explaining what is wrong with America. From the publisher …

“In 1987, eminent political philosopher Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind, an appraisal of contemporary America that “hits with the approximate force and effect of electroshock therapy” (the New York Times) and has not only been vindicated, but has also become more urgent today. In clear, spirited prose, Bloom argues that the social and political crises of contemporary America are part of a larger intellectual crisis: the result of a dangerous narrowing of curiosity and exploration by the university elites.

“Now, in this 25th anniversary edition, acclaimed author and journalist Andrew Ferguson contributes a new essay that describes why Bloom’s argument caused such a furor at publication and why our culture so deeply resists its truths today.”

30 thoughts on “William Lind hopes for a spiritual revival in the West

  1. The fact people are seeking spirituality in a variety of different places and through diverse methodologies contradicts the thesis spirituality is dying in the West. Religiosity is not spirituality, but rather it often functions as the opposite. Institutionalized Christianity is largely responsible for the hole in our soul and unifying the sects will not fill it. Humanity evolves through its own unique processes and if anything the rise of artificial intelligence and the dataism as the new universal religion preached by Yuval Harari is the real danger , especially as technology-driven change seeks to displace our problem-solving capacities.

    I really like your posts and am a great fan of Bill Lind but this post strikes me as more nostalgia for a bygone era and a variation on the clash of civilisations thesis than practical insight into how the role of religion in social and political change can be used to fix our problems. Reducing culture to cult does not hold up except as a philosophical abstraction and for that matter It would also appear that China’s centralised model does not conform to this analysis.

    1. It would not be the first neat, clean, all-encompassing Theory of Society to smash asunder on the existence of China, that’s for sure.

      Speaking from my own experience with spirituality I think there is a hunger for spirituality but the problem is that it is deeply and profoundly associated with the abuse of power in a whole lot of Americans (and I’m sure in Europe if with different details). In my own religious community it has become almost farcial for me, because I see people of my ethnic background struggle and contort themselves to maybe possibly grudgingly barely sort of kind of with a lot of hedging accept some relatively basic element of faith.

    2. SF,

      “the problem is that it is deeply and profoundly associated with the abuse of power in a whole lot of Americans”

      Color me skeptical that many Americans have such deep understandings of religion, and shape their beliefs accordingly. I’ll bet that Americans prefer to live with as few rules as possible. Dietary rules, so we can be obese. Rules about genders, so we can be promiscuous – with divorce and abortion at will. Rules about drugs, so we can get blasted and high at will. Rules about oaths, so we can lie at will. Rules about conduct with others, so we can act in our sole best interest.

      It’s a great system, and most religions ruin the game.

      Perhaps we will get a religion like the Fosterites in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, that allows – even encourages – having fun as the way to get to Heaven.

  2. To Descartes’ “Cogito ergo sum,” a united church would have answered, “Non est. Dues cogitavit, ergo es.”

    First of all, i believe that this is a typo for “Deus cogitavit” which would make more sense in this context. The meaning would then lean towards: “It is not. God plans it, therefore it is.” rather than “I think therefore I am.”

    In the interest of brevity, from a cultural standpoint, the author is correct. Until the age of reason, where rationalism overtook spiritualism, religion and culture were essentially inseparable. In so called primitive societies, the culture, more or less was the religion and vice versa. Your relationship to the outside world, and others in your culture were defined by the culture and the religion, and these defined your sacred and profane (or worldly) spaces and interactions. There was no culture in the absence of religion – the concepts were too intertwined and irrevocably integrated.

    It is only in more modern times where you could partake of a culture, and define your religiosity as a separate thing. Even in early America, religion was viewed as inseparable from our ethical understanding of the world. Rights were not given by the government, or a king, they were given by god, hence inseparable from any laws that could be written.

    All ethics and morals were religiously based, and we have now moved away from that, allowing ethics and morals to be dictated by rational thought. However once that mooring is cut loose, it is a potentially very slippery slope to no ethical underpinnings. If you are completely free to self define your moral compass, you are free to write it as you wish, and in any way you wish.

    While religions do have an effect of excluding some who are not of that persuasion, as Lewis Coser wrote decades ago, social conflict has its functions. Sometimes that works well, sometimes not so well. On the one hand, when it works to strengthen your society, great. However if it devolves into warring tribes within your culture, it becomes dysfunctional and destructive.

    We now have warring tribes with varying beliefs based on received knowledge. It may be hard to put that received knowledge genie back in the bottle. Thus, even going back to originalism in religions may not suffice, since what if you are a different religion, does the majority religion rule? What if I am Jewish, or Hindu, and the new ethical compass is written in Roman Catholic.

    Also, how does that effect individuals of different philosophical persuasions or behavioral persuasions? In the old days, heresy, or disbelievers were punished with exclusion or death. How would our new society treat outliers then?

    I think the solution will still need to be a return to some basis of religious values. However it will also have to allow us to be able to abet our differences in a more respectful, receptive and civilized way, rather than the vituperative and nearly violent way we have evolved into these days.

    There is no easy day ahead.

    1. Barry,

      I have never understood how “religion divides us” is a rebuttal to religion, or disadvantage. The last serious religion based war between States inside Europe ended in 1648. But afterwards we have many wars for other reasons. We have had numerous bloody civil wars in the West over ideologies. At points in the Cold War, much of the biosphere was at risk – due to a difference in ideologies.

      Polynesia had little that the West considered civilization, yet they had brutal wars.

      So how is religion different? How much of ourselves must we strip away to get to a point where nothing divides us?

    2. Barry,

      I forgot to mention – thanks for catching that typo (sic). I changed it to “Deus.”

    3. I very beg to differ! IMHO there is no religion which doesn’t imply a child abuse as it’s means to its continuance. If I ask what’s more powerful: God or democracy, or driving, or alcohol, or sex; all the religious authorities would claim The God! Yet, in civil societies there are limits to some of these in reality: You can’t have sex until 14,16,18 (whatever), you can’t get booze until 18, 19… etc etc. YET, you “can pick” the ultimate power at the age of four??? Until religious beliefs would be a free choice of reason of a sentient being and not a result of indoctrination, there is not an instance where a religion can claim anything of sort of virtue.
      Further, I still believe, since we can’t turn the world to love (or to like) US, we should concentrate on ONE and ONLY THING: AVOID A NUCLEAR CONFRONTATION!
      And then, even if I’m wrong in the premise, we’ll still have a world to prove me wrong. And I don’t mind to be proven wrong at that!!!

    4. jako,

      “there is no religion which doesn’t imply a child abuse”

      Wow. Well, OK then.

      “we should concentrate on ONE and ONLY THING: AVOID A NUCLEAR CONFRONTATION!”

      The world is a complex place. We can’t concentrate on just one thing. Also, the odds of massive use of nukes peaked 56 years ago and has fallen steadily since then.

  3. I disagree with William Lind’s premise because he includes nothing about Eastern Orthodoxy, when, why, and how Roman Catholicism broke away from the East before Martin Luther’s Reformation, which is related to Protestants and Catholics finding common ground before the Reformation because if Catholics and Protestants do not know, and that a second Reformation would cause more schisms in Catholicism and Protestants because the doctrines at those two sources were already in decline centuries ago

    He is also blinded by the role that women could play in religion, apart from the feminists, regarding the revival of Western people’s’ belief in their culture and in themselves.

    1. Der Maiden,

      A common criticism of everyone’s work is “it don’t mention X and Y.” The more common criticism is “it’s too long.”

      The average time spent reading an article on the internet is 2 or 3 minutes. Comments show that a large fraction of the people commenting didn’t read the post carefully.

      You’re getting something for free. Don’t ask too much of it.

      Writing a book that addresses X, Y, Z and the zillion other factors relevant to any significant social phenomenon isn’t going to happen. On Earth, at least. In Heaven, I’m confident that internet posts are all the length of the Britannica encyclopedia, cover all major factors – since authors have eternity to research and write them – and aren’t read beyond the Summary.

    2. Larry,

      I’m not asking for a book about X,Y,and Z, I’m commenting that with out X, whatever solution Lind and anyone else traveling on the same path that they are proposing for Y and Z will be useless.

      What Lind is proposing is a waste of time because there is no X

    3. DerMaiden,

      Your is not a criticism I or most writers have any interest in.

      The average internet post is roughly a few hundred words. The one or two thousand word articles here are relatively long – but microscopic in terms of what can be mentioned.

      We put into these little packages what each of us thinks is most important. If you want other things discussed, write your own articles.

    4. Regarding the comment since I am not your average reader…

      “To Descartes’ “Cogito ergo sum,” a united church would have answered, “Non est. Dues cogitavit, ergo es.” {Ed: please post in the comments if you know what that means.}”

      “it’s not. God thought you, therefore you are”

      As an aside, the correct spelling would be “Deus”, not “Dues”, BTW.

      Also: “non est” literally means “it’s not”, but it was used to mean “it’s not like that”, “it’s wrong”, “you’re wrong”.

      So, Descartes said “I think, therefore I am” (meaning: I know I exist because I can think), and someone answered him “wrong, God thought you, that’s how/why you exist”?

    5. Der Maiden,

      Thanks! That is helpful, not just as a translation but also the correction.

      I used Google Translate. In went “Non est. Dues cogitavit, ergo es.” Out came: “It is not. Dues planned, so are you.”

      With your correction – In went “Non est. Deus cogitavit, ergo es.” Our came: “It is not. God thinks you are.”

      I made the correction to the post.

    6. Larry,

      “Your is not a criticism I or most writers have any interest in.”

      I understand, not a problem

    7. Der Maiden,

      I had an attack of stupid when replying to you. What I should have said was …

      Comments like yours are a useful supplement to the post, and a valuable contribution to the discussion. All posts cover only a microscopic fraction of the analysis about an issue. Comments are the forum to extend the analysis in scale and detail (as well as give rebuttals).

      However, pointing out some of the countless unmentioned factors is not a rational basis to “disagree” with him, nor does not mentioning them mean he is “blind” or “blinded.”

  4. Without sensibility no object would be given to us, without understanding no object would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind…There are only two ways in which we can account for a necessary agreement of experience with the concepts of its objects: either experience makes these concepts possible or these concepts make experience possible.” E Kant

    I do not think we need to or should put the knowledge genie back in the bottle. IMO, religion, science, and philosophy have a common root, and we need to use this commonality to form a viable synthesis that addresses the moral as well as the mundane.

    1. John,

      “we need to use this commonality to form a viable synthesis that addresses the moral as well as the mundane.”

      Can you explain what that means in more concrete terms?

    2. Larry:
      One item would be for Christians to emulate the Jewish community and see the similarities rather than the differences. This would be making the interdenominational efforts more than ” a bunch of fat dieters sitting around talking about the great food they DIDN’T eat.” The response of a friend of mine who joined Jenny Craig to lose weight and why he quit. The preisthood would have to be part of the reform for it to work.

      Another is recognizing that The Word was written to help humans, God doesn’t need help. This needs to be combined with honesty about science and philosophy that addresses the intellectual, and emotional, but not the spiritual. This would require persons to quit thinking to apply words in their perceived definition, but recognize that the words of wisdom are words of wisdom. An example of which was a priest when asked should the Church oppose evolution, stated no, one should teach science for science, and The Word for spirit; God is powerful enough to use evolution for his creation.

      There would need to be a mechanism for persons to encourage spiritual correctness and incorrectness. It would need to include and be the instrument for politics and political action by the faithful.

      There will be other items to add. The goal is to grow the number and kinds of people underneath the tent, but it has to have real inputs for real outputs. These items would address those who would go to separate humans from their spirituality, and from their moral compass. There will be differences. The goal will be to make binding agreements, if only to agree to the similarity and shared vision.

      The above are my opinions, and I think are possible but very difficult, and definitely could be improved with some thought. The purpose is to separate the mundane such as arguing about evolution, and the spiritual such as men and women honestly and correctly forming a permanent union of marriage.

  5. Where are all of the trolls accusing Lind of being a conspiracy theorist who blames the decline of the West on Jewish Frankfurt School neomarxists? Here he’s blaming our decline on our spiritual condition. I agree with Lind but disagree with his historical analysis.

    The decline of American Protestantism began at the turn of the 20th century but really kicked-off with the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. The two sides of the controversy are represented by J. Gresham Machen and Harry Fosdick representing the Devil and his angels.

    The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy had its origins with the German Higher Critics (Feuerbach et al) in the 19th century but eventually infected all of Western Protestantism.

    Protestantism these days falls into three categories: mainline (liberal churches run by lesbian cat ladies), borderline (denominations like the PCA with liberal and confessional churches) and sideline (conservative denominations like the OPC).

    Unity between Roman Catholics and remnant confessional Protestants can occur when Roman Catholics repent and adopt all the beliefs of confessional Protestantism such as the Westminster Standards or 3 Forms of Unity.

    1. Agreed
      Frankfurt neomarxists.
      Is that a “conspiracy theory”?
      Pretty clearly accurate.
      Nihilism is a culprit.
      Blooms book is always a good reference/read.
      Christopher Lasch on culture of narcissism
      And of course Beyond Good and Evil.
      Does the genie go back in?
      How?

    2. PRCD,

      I don’t know what any of that stuff is. But I have attended protestant churches for 50 years. In the 1960s and 1970s they were reasonably function religious institutions. Since then the rot has spread quickly.

      While a historian can certainly trace the origin of these problems back to the Doctors of the Church, beyond them to the Apostles, back to the Patriarchs of Israel, and beyond them back to the protoplasmic slime of primordial Earth. But for operational purposes, I agree with Lind’s framing of the situation – looking to when the bolts began to pop out of America’s spiritual institutions.

    3. I think PRCD shows why we need a synthesis. Choosing one over the other would most probably reduce the number of people under the tent.

      Instead, as an example of heresy: Any Christian Faith that does not recognize that God is powerful enough to use evolution has succumbed to a heresy.

      The goal will be stick to supportable claims. Priests and Pastors should be spiritual leaders above the scientific fray.

      Likewise:

      On interdenominationalism: Christ asked his followers to be one. It would be violating a religious duty for the religious leaders to enrage their flocks against other Christians. Christ said “Peace be unto you” and that should be every Christians’ attitude to other Christians and other religions.

  6. I think that Mr. Lind is dead right. I’ add to the context Orthodox Churches, but you can’t have all in a short text. I just say that I thought to be catholic, but if catholicism is what the present Catholic Church usually gives us, well: I am not. In my humble opinion, a war of religion is yet being fought, and it is fought on the anthopological battlefield, the Schwerpunkt of the fight being to determine “What is man?” “Does human nature exist, or not?” and “If it does, how is it?”
    Interesting times for our sons…

  7. “I think therefore I am”. To which the reply would be: “Not so. God thinks, He Is.” At least that’s how I read it without google and remembering my trawls through latin quotation books. You guys probably already have the better translation.

    I bought a copy of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option (highly recommended, he calls for Christians to preserve the faith and build small communities) for my highly religious mother, and I have much sympathy for Christian morality and their concerns, but every time I placate my mother by joining her in church for Easter or Christmas I am reminded why I stopped going. The single-minded focus on tolerance and peace and love offers no answers to me.

    1. Am Muse,

      “build small communities”

      That is a common belief. It is flytrap for reformers. Attractive and doomed to fail. It offers their leaders what leaders want most – an isolated realm they can rule. But isolation from the wider society is difficult in the US. Even the Amish, the survivors of hundreds of such experiments in the 19th century, find it difficult. Keeping it going after one generation is almost impossible. It serves to remove reformers from influence on America. Flypaper.

      “every time I placate my mother by joining her in church for Easter or Christmas I am reminded why I stopped going.”

      Going sometime outside the holidays. See what fraction of the congregation is men 20-60. The churches I’ve attended are mostly — with some exceptions — children, elderly, and women. The exceptions are the successful ones, usually due to a strong pastor. Which means success is usually temporary.

  8. I don’t know what any of that stuff is. But I have attended protestant churches for 50 years. In the 1960s and 1970s they were reasonably function religious institutions. Since then the rot has spread quickly.

    That puts your baptism at 1968. Did you have strong, well-developed opinions on church in your infancy through pre-teen years? I sure didn’t. I found the evangelical churches I attended in my youthful to be “reasonably functional.” Having becoming much-more educated on church history and theology, I am now able to call my youthful opinions foolish. The fact that you don’t “know what any of that stuff is” is concerning since every conservative Protestant seminary and church historian marks those events as watershed moments in Protestant church history. I find your hand-waving about it to be part of the problem. At best, if you “don’t know,” you can have no opinion.

    Lind’s understanding of Christianity is much weaker than his understanding of military history.

    1. PRCD,

      “I found the evangelical churches I attended in my youthful to be “reasonably functional.”Having becoming much-more educated on church history and theology, I am now able to call my youthful opinions foolish.”

      Here we have a tangible note. Why do you now believe that the churches in the 1960s and 1970s were non-functional? That requires no church or theological history, any more than reading an eye chart requires a knowledge about the eye’s evolution.

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