While they once held dominance over American Catholic conservative political and cultural thought during the reign of John Paul II, since the advent of the Trump presidency and under Pope Francis’s pontificate, Catholic neoconservatives have been in a state of disarray. Turning to the deleterious message of “Crunchy Christian” Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, the former leaders of conservative Catholicism have gone into retreat. As a telling example of this self-immolation, Matthew Schmitz recently penned an article in First Things indicating that Christian neocons have thrown in the towel in the cultures that once fought so valiantly.
In his article, titled “Christianity is for Cucks,” Schmitz argues that the neo-pagan Alt-Right critics of Christianity are entirely correct and that Christians are supposed to be weak, cowardly, and effeminate cuckolds, or “cucks,” ready to welcome the destruction of their civilization via mass migration and degeneracy.
In his article, Schmitz takes some passages from the 20th-century Catholic writer Evelyn Waugh’s novels as evidence that Waugh argued for a “cucked” Christianity. Schmitz quotes from Waugh’s depiction an African priest offering Mass for a group of Europeans in his short story “Out of Depth” as seeming evidence that Waugh would support massive immigration into Europe, or at least that Waugh would be hostile to the recent emergence of traditionalist and right-wing political groups in Europe who call for a reduction in immigration.
Continuing his argument, Schmitz cites the story of Guy Crouchback of “Sword of Honor.” Crouchback is a failed soldier in World War I who is cuckolded by his wife’s hairdresser. This is Waugh’s message to Christians that the ideal Christian is an effeminate, bungling bum.
Schmitz here (and elsewhere) is wrong – not only in his reading of Waugh, but in his understanding of the Church Militant.
Schmitz, who has an A.B. from Princeton University in English literature, misreads Waugh’s works, which were meant as a satire, not as a moral lesson for how Christians should respond to migration and cuckoldry. Waugh himself was, for better or worse, a notorious right-winger as well as a consummate satirist. Simply put, celebrating the loss of one’s culture and one’s wife is not the core message of Christianity. To think or write otherwise is embarrassing.
Is Schmitz’s low-testosterone Christianity really the religion of Jesus Christ and the traditional Catholic faith? Let’s look at three notable examples from the Bible and the Church’s tradition: Judas Maccabeus, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Pius X.
In Holy Scripture we find the following about Judas Maccabeus, the great leader of the Hebrew people who liberated his people from the occupying force of pagan Greeks:
And he got his people great honor, and put on a breastplate as a giant, and girt his warlike armor about him in battles, and protected the camp with his sword. In his acts he was like a lion, and like a lion’s whelp roaring for his prey. And he pursued the wicked and sought them out, and them that troubled his people he burnt with fire: And his enemies were driven away for fear of him, and all the workers of iniquity were troubled: and salvation prospered in his hand.
This is not the description of a cuckold or a self-loathing European happy to see his culture dissipated. This is the description of an anointed warrior chosen by God to defend his faith and heritage.
Lest one object that the example from the Old Testament is antiquated, let’s take another example from the writings of one of the greatest saints of the Middle Ages, St. Bernard of Clairvaux ,who famously urged the Church Militant to join the Second Crusade:
Fly then to arms; let a holy rage animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet, “Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!” If the Lord calls you to the defense of His heritage think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve legions of angels or breathe one word and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name.
This call to arms does not sound like “Christianity for Cucks.” Schmitz is gravely errant if he thinks the true teaching of Christ is to refuse love of family and country, cowering under our beds while ISIS batters down the door.
Again, perhaps Bernard is too medieval. Let’s then take an example from the 20th century, where we will be safely processed through the American and French revolutions, industrialization, and the outlawing of dueling.
When asked if he should go easy on the modernists, Pope St. Pius X is reported to have stated:
Kindness is for fools. They want them to be treated with oil, soap, and caresses but they ought to be beaten with fists! In a duel you don’t count or measure the blows, you strike as you can. War is not made with charity, it is a struggle, a duel. If Our Lord were not terrible he would not have given an example in this too. See how he treated the Philistines, the sowers of error, the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the traitors in the temple. He scourged them with whips!
This is not the language of Matthew Schmitz or any other self-identified First Things cuckold. In this famous quote, we see the esprit of Pope St. Pius X, whose take-no-prisoners attitude was able to stave off the flood of modernism in the Church until the 1960s.
These examples are just three among innumerable stories and sayings of saints and heroes from the Church’s tradition who stood stalwart for the faith.
Ultimately, despite cuckish crowing from “Crunchy Christians” like Matthew Schmitz, Russell Moore, and Rod Dreher – all of whom have called on Christians to lay down their arms in the culture wars – there is no future for chicken hearts in Christianity. The future of a Christendom 2.0 will be forged from the blood of martyrs, the roaring of great Catholic preachers and politicians, and the humble prayers of Christians like you and me.
Jesse Russell, Ph.D. has published on literary theory, religion, semiotics, and politics in a variety of academic and popular journals.