Dissident Dispatches: An Alt-Right Guide to Christian Theology
London: Arktos, 2017
Andrew Fraser was for most of his career a professor of law at Macquarie University in Sydney. He was catapulted to prominence in July, 2005, by a letter to a local newspaper warning against the importation of Sudanese refugees into Australia: “Experience everywhere in the world shows us that an expanding black population is a sure-fire recipe for increases in crime, violence and other social problems.” The controversy surrounding the letter resulted in his departure from Macquarie.
In 2011, he published The WASP Question, a book which examines the failure of Anglo-Saxons around the world—the “invisible race”—to maintain a conscious ethnic identity and defend their collective interests:
The defining characteristic of WASPs [he wrote] is that they are much less ethnocentric than other peoples; indeed, for all practical purposes Anglo-Saxon Protestants appear to be all but completely bereft of in-group solidarity. They are therefore open to exploitation by free-riders from other, more ethnocentric, groups.
In the course of studying Anglo-Saxon origins, he came to appreciate the role played by the Christian Church in transforming a bunch of squabbling Germanic tribes into the English nation. It would be impossible to guess from looking at contemporary Christianity that the church could ever have served such a function. The privatization of worship since the Enlightenment has been so successful a revolution that many Christians are unaware of it, imagining it simply the nature of their faith to be a private affair.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Medieval Christianity “was a way of life, a communion, and a faith practiced in public and private by all manner of men and women,” as Fraser points out. The Bible did not merely “serve individual believers as witness to the word and work of God,” but also “provided the sacred charter” of the church. But if the Christian Church presided over the formation of the English nation, might the retreat of Christianity into the private realm have contributed to the downfall of proud Anglo-Saxon nationhood within the last several decades?
With such questions in mind, Fraser, already of an age to retire, made the unusual decision to enroll as an undergraduate at a nearby divinity school. The school turned out to be a “hotbed of multiculturalist ideology,” and at one point he was suspended for an entire year due to complaints of his “intolerance” from students and faculty members. But he persisted, and in 2015 was awarded a Bachelor of Theology degree.
Dissident Dispatches is the record of his experiences as a student. The book includes papers written for course credit (with his lecturer’s comments), accounts of his skirmishes with the politically correct, and subsequent personal reflections on both. It is arranged chronologically rather than thematically, giving it the feel of a miscellany, but a consistent theological and political perspective underlies the whole. Weighing in at over 500 pages, the volume is best digested in short installments. What follows is merely a summary of a few of the main themes.
The Attack on Christian Nationhood
Contemporary Christians like to locate the heart of the Bible’s message in Saint Paul’s declaration to the Galatians (3:28) that “There is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Why would God have sent His Son into the world if not to save us all from racism?
But as Fraser points out, “The Bible provides ample warrant to designate nations and peoples as essential building blocks in the constitution of the holy, catholic, and apostolic church of Christ.” From the Lord’s “fixing the boundaries of the peoples” in Deuteronomy 32:8 to Christ’s Great Commission to “go make disciples of all nations,” in Matthew 28:19, nowhere do the scriptures treat the existence of distinct nations as opposed to God’s will. The entire Old Testament, after all, was addressed to a particular nation.
Analogously, the restoration of Christendom for which Fraser hopes “cannot be limited to the quest for mere personal salvation or a quick religious fix for depressed and downtrodden individuals. It offers healing to the nations.”
In Galatians, Paul was reminding his readers that God is no respecter of nationality in the matter of salvation. This provides no more warrant for an anti-national politics than Christ’s saying “in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” warrants adultery.
Yet contemporary Christianity treats nationalism as a social pathology, and introductory theological texts warn students away from such traditional slogans as “God and Fatherland” or “God, family and country.” As Fraser notes, “Even Anglicans reject the idea that the Church of England was and should be again the Church for England and the English people.”
Some of today’s anti-national tendencies can be attributed to the continuing influence of Karl Barth, the Swiss pastor famous for his opposition to the Deutsche Christen movement which attempted to reconcile Christianity with German National Socialism. Fraser characterizes Barth as “an intellectual leftist … predisposed to philo-bolshevism,” and there is plenty of evidence to justify such a description. Early in his career, he was nicknamed “the red pastor of Safenwil.” In 1948, on a visit to Hungary, he urged local Christians to seek a “compromise” with the Communist dictatorship, and he remained steadfastly silent during the subsequent Soviet invasion of 1956. Four years later, he wrote: “I regard anticommunism as a matter of principle an evil even greater than communism itself.”
Yet Barth adopted a vituperative tone with the Deutsche Christen, describing their teaching as “blatantly nonsensical” and “irresponsible pseudotheology.” His opposition could not have been based on the group’s complicity in any Nazi war crimes, for he drafted the Barmen declaration against them as early as the Spring of 1934. Rather, in Fraser’s words, Barth was
determined to show that theology must be stripped of all cultural particularity if we are to grasp the meaning of the Word and the covenant it proclaims between God and all men. [He] casually dissolves all primordial biocultural distinctions between strangers and neighbors, out-groups and in-groups, into the lowest common denominator of “humanity.” He then declares grandly that an allegedly divine commandment of xenophilia is mandatory for all Christians.
Barth viewed nationality as neither immanent in human nature nor part of the divine order of the universe. In the words of one sympathetic commentator, Barth considered nationalism “a disease, a sickness, a basic deformation of the human creature.”
As Fraser points out, this is a serious misrepresentation of the relationship between Christian communities of faith and the blood bonds of national identity. Yet his struggle to overturn the Christian doctrine of nations continues to be hallowed in the eyes of innumerable Christians by his opposition to National Socialism. Fraser remarks:
His universalistic theology may have been relevant to the liberal and communist crusade against an aroused and militant German nationalism; it has since become part of the problem rather than the solution to the demographic crisis facing every Western ethno-nation. [His teaching] has provided mainstream and evangelical Protestant churches with a convenient theological rationale to justify their complicity with the corporate, political, media, and academic elites now parroting the nation-destroying ideology of multiculturalism.
Eschatology, Preterism, and the End of the Old Covenant
The key to understanding Barth’s “deformation of Christian nationhood,” in Fraser’s view, lies in his eschatology: a communist-utopian vision in which “all the earthly divisions of race, class, and gender, between Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, will be overcome in the apocalyptic appearance of a new heaven and a new earth.” This “neo-communist theology now peddled by Protestant divinity schools,” Fraser remarks, “draws its emotional force from the as yet unrealized promise of Christ’s Second Coming.” Yet there exists “a Bible studies movement… emerging outside the theological seminaries and divinity schools” which would pull the rug out from under such utopian hopes: preterism.
Christ’s statement that “some of those who are standing here shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt 16:28; Luke 9:27) has long been an embarrassment to Christian apologists. But preterists (from the Latin word praeter, meaning “past”) hold that this prediction was literally fulfilled; they identify Christ’s Second Coming with the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus’s legions some forty years after the crucifixion.
Preterist pastors teach that Old Covenant Israel was destroyed, once and for all, with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70. A New Covenant came into force in which the church became the New Israel. This teaching marks a return to Christian orthodoxy in which neither individual Jews nor the modern state of Israel are to be set upon a pedestal as avatars of ancient Israel.
This event was a truly apocalyptic disaster for the Jews of the time, for their religion centered upon the ceremonial sacrifices which could only be performed at that particular location. Moreover, the destruction of the temple was accompanied by the sack of Jerusalem and the death of over one million Jews. Survivors were scattered across the Empire, and their survival as a nation was very much in doubt.
Many early Christian writers—including Augustine, Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian and the Jewish-born Bishop Melito of Sardis—interpreted these events as God’s judgment upon the Jews for the death of Christ. Fraser is unwilling to reject such a view out of hand: “For far too long now, Anglo-Saxon Protestants have dismissed the teachings of the patristic writers on the Jewish question as an expression of unthinking prejudice.”
Later on, Christians came to view the events of 70 AD “as a prelude to the even more final and crushing judgment of God executed in 135 AD against the revolutionaries who waged a Second Jewish War against Rome.” Surviving Ioudaioi were seen “not as members of the living culture of Judaea,” in the words of Canadian scholar Steve Mason, “but as a homeless and humiliated people in a perpetual state of aporia who could cling to a few strange seeming practices.” Fraser:
Those who refused to accept the New Covenant were compelled to re-invent Judaism as a highly particularistic ethno-religion younger than and set in opposition to Christianity. Accordingly, the Talmud became the defining document of those who insisted that the advent of Christ had changed nothing and that the Old Covenant was still valid.
But the Jerusalem Talmud was not completed before the Fifth century, and the more influential Babylonian Talmud followed only in the Seventh century.
The New Race of Christians: Athanasius
Meanwhile, the Christian church was presiding over an ethnogenesis which Fraser describes as “a case study in theological anthropology”:
The early church was the corporate seedbed of a new race. Within little more than a century, Christians from every corner of the known world were reborn. Of necessity, the first members of the new race of Christians were compelled to break with the ancestral religious practices at the heart of their pre-existing ethnic identities. [But] by appropriating the story of Israel from Genesis to Revelation, the church endowed the faithful with a collective identity… a history stretching back millennia, and a destiny grounded in the Great Commission delivered by Christ to his apostles.
St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (d. 373), is best remembered as an opponent of the Arian heresy, but he also had a great deal to say about the social significance of Christianity, and his views on the subject form a useful contrast with those of Karl Barth. In the words of scholar Peter J. Leinart, Athanasius recognized “that the end point of the incarnation and redemption accomplished by Christ is the formation of a community.” Athanasius taught that Christianity entailed the recreation of mankind at large in an ongoing public process of deification, or theopoēsis. As Fraser writes, “the reality described by Athanasius as deification was visibly reshaping the cultural life of countless communities throughout the known inhabited world of his own day.”
Few theologians seem interested in [deification] as a really-existing historical process affecting the development of Christian communities. Things were quite otherwise in the patristic era. Athanasius was not speaking metaphorically when he wrote that Jesus Christ “was incarnate that we might be made God.” He wrote as a leading ecclesiastical authority in an established Christian politeia [and a witness to] the visible manifestations of Christ’s power to persuade “the entire inhabited world to worship one and the same Lord, and through him God, his Father.” In less than three centuries, the mythic power of the Word had divinized a corrupt, decadent, and dying pagan civilization.
As Fraser notes, the term “mythic” in this context is not simply equivalent to “fictitious.” The function of myth is to impart “a sense of collective self” to any human community, and the early church was no exception:
Christians constructed a myth of descent from Abraham. In their adoptive spiritual kingdom, Gentiles became descendants of the righteous patriarchs and prophets of Old Covenant Israel. In effect, the biblical narrative of Israel served as the mythomoteur (constitutive myth) powering the ethno-genesis of a Christian people… drawn from the many races and ethnicities in the world of late antiquity.
Early church fathers used myths and symbols to construct an account of Jesus Christ that had the power to move people. Over the millennium to come, the church was able to use the New Testament to construct mythic accounts of Jesus Christ sufficiently coherent to divinize the historical nations of Europe.
The Evangelical Mind-Set and the Cult of the Other
The downfall of Christian nationhood in the modern English-speaking world owes much to the evangelical movement which began in the eighteenth century. Fraser describes it as “a moralistic middle-class response to the commercial and industrial revolutions in Great Britain.” Evangelical hostility to Realpolitik has been an influential feature of WASP culture ever since.
In public as in private life, evangelical Christians regarded morality “as an intensely personal question, to be answered according to strict doctrinaire principle.” Evangelicals possess a “pew-hard certainty” that they can distil “human existence in all its rich complexity” into “simple terms of right and wrong.” Confidence in their own moral rectitude leads them to view “religion as a rule-book to govern every aspect of personal, social and international life.”
Fraser’s understanding of the evangelical movement is heavily informed by the discussion in Correlli Barnett’s study The Collapse of British Power (1972), from which the quoted words in the above passage are taken. Indeed, Barnett assigns a large share of responsibility for that collapse to the evangelical tradition.
Nowadays evangelicals project their heavenly vision of the multi-ethnic body of Christ as the template for the earthly creation of a multi-cultural state and multi-racial society. From the bottom of their sentimental hearts, evangelical humanists welcome the Other as the incarnate image of God. [Some of them] explicitly assert that Christians must choose between loyalty to the extended families of tribe, nation and race and loyalty to God.
In short, evangelicals provide the secular theocracy of the transnational corporate welfare state with an ideological veneer of Christian humanism. [Their] unshakable faith in the spiritual power of sentimental moralizing is perhaps the greatest single home-grown obstacle to the emergence of an Anglo-Saxon Christian ethno-theology.
(For an interesting case study in Evangelical moralizing and its harmful political consequences, cf. “The 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion” by Andrew Joyce, TOQ 13:2, Summer 2013.)
In today’s Australia, the spiritual heirs of the evangelical movement pay special attention to the Aborigines. With an average IQ of 62, the original inhabitants of Australia are among the most primitive people known to anthropology. In a multi-author volume assigned as part of Fraser’s coursework, one white contributor exhorts his readers that it is not enough for “British/ European Australians… to be charitable and generous to Aborigines” or to “feel obligated to give aid” to them; white Australians must also recognize the Aborigines’ “hermeneutical privilege for understanding reality” and “be prepared to look at life through their eyes.”
To judge from Aboriginal pastor Ray Minniecon’s contribution to the same volume, part of the Aborigines’ privileged understanding of reality appears to be exemption from the principle of non-contradiction. “Accountability for wrongdoing is a fundamental principle of reconciliation,” writes Minniecon in the context of alleged White crimes towards his people; yet he also calls for “a decrease in the number of our people in jail, because the number of our people in jail is criminal in itself.”
This is not an isolated instance. Anthropologists have noted “that there is more tolerance in Aboriginal interactions of what white Australians regard as inconsistencies or contradictory statements.” Fraser remarks:
Among primitive peoples organized in kinship networks of families, clans, and tribes, the value of social solidarity far outweighs the importance of truth. In such a world, knowledge does not mean what philosophers describe as rationally justified true belief. Rather, [as anthropologist Randall] Sanders points out, “in the definition of knowledge used by anthropologists rational justification is irrelevant. What is called tribal knowledge usually reflects the needs of group solidarity more than anything else: as such it often represents culturally justified false belief.”
Such are the people to whose “hermeneutical privilege for understanding reality” white Australians are now being asked to defer.
The Good Samaritan
A high point of Fraser’s book for me was his discussion of the parable of the Good Samaritan, a favorite text of Christian xenophiles, who see in the man lying by the roadside a prototype of all the colorful foreigners upon whom they seek to lavish what they take to be Christian love. But properly understood, the parable provides no warrant for “cat lady” morality:
The Samaritan and the innkeeper generate a stock of social capital that could be beneficial to future travelers along the Jerusalem to Jericho road. The man lying by the roadside was not just an archetypal exemplar of the Other; he belonged to the latent community of interest constituted by all the travelers along that dangerous route. The Samaritan and the innkeeper were building up a fund of mutual trust and cooperation.
The contemporary white xenophile, Christian or otherwise, is doing the opposite:
squandering irreplaceable stocks of inherited social capital, undermining what remains of the traditions of family, faith, and folk uniquely associated with high-trust European-descended societies such as England. It is not safe simply to assume that European Christians are bound, in all circumstances, to shower unrequited, self-giving love upon racial and religious Others at home and abroad.
Fraser also differentiates the Samaritan’s motives from the sentimental morality of “love” preached by the heirs of the evangelical movement:
The Samaritan was not moved by transient feelings or shallow emotions but by inbuilt, enduring character traits, by a masculine sense of civic virtue. In other words, he was a trustworthy, responsible, and honorable man predisposed to act in ways that serve the common good—even at considerable personal cost.
This point is obscured by modern bible translations which employ “love” to represent the active virtue represented by the Greek agapē. As Fraser notes, when this word “was translated into early modern English as ‘charity,’ the word signified not an inner emotional state but rather a social, political, or civic virtue essential to organized community life.”
I shall close with one final quote that encapsulates the central message of Dissident Dispatches to contemporary Christendom:
It is not a sin when white Christians notice differences between themselves and other racial groups or when they distinguish between neighbors and sojourners, strangers and aliens, friends and enemies. It is a sin, however, to elevate love of strangers and aliens above the divinely ordained, fraternal love for neighbors.
If the contemporary church can digest this message, it may prove possible to renew Christendom after all.