Hasn’t Yet Been Tried

A nation as broad and diverse as ours has a great many challenges and a great many divisions…But we do have a system—devised and founded by men who understood the depravity of man and the corruptions of concentrated power—whereby no one faction gets a permanent upper hand, and there are exceedingly few permanent political victories. 

It has been quite a week. On Tuesday I published a 6,000-word book review that got an enormous response by Square Inch standards. As expected, the author of that book and his tribe did not like it, but I did not write it in hopes that they would. They’ve been busy trying to come up with something to say, and from what I can see on Twitter they’ve landed on: “Mattson doesn’t understand Bavinck.” Or that I don’t understand what the author was actually saying.

I understand both perfectly well.

At any rate, as a result there are a lot of new faces around here. So welcome! Make yourself at home. If you are interested in weekly cultural commentary on a wide variety of topics, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for a steady stream of negative polemical content like that book review, you might have come to the wrong place. I rarely write purely polemical essays. In fact, I think I have written two in the last decade, and it only happens when a strong sense of duty demands it. When theologian David Bentley Hart wrote a heretical essay on the resurrection of the body, I couldn’t rest until he was answered. And after watching for weeks people cheering this new book on Christian Nationalism, I decided to read it for myself. And, well, I was again compelled by a strong sense of duty.

It is not just the theology that bothers me, bad as it is. (I didn’t have “Calvinists for the inherent goodness of man” on my 2022 bingo card, but here we are.) It is the insatiable thirst that people have for power, and this is becoming a defining feature of our political landscape. I expect it from the progressive Left, which has always been about constraining people to their vision of the good. Ronald Reagan wasn’t lying when he said that a liberal is someone who wants to reach around your shower curtain to adjust the temperature of the water. Now the far Right wants in on that action, too, to achieve a State large and powerful enough to direct all of society to some higher, “common good.”

It is this coziness to and lust for State power that we ought to find alarming. Conservatives often mock the socialists who constantly argue that “true socialism has yet to be tried.” But I daresay it is impossible to listen to the nationalist crowd without hearing the exact same note: true nationalism hasn’t yet been tried. The problem has been poor implementation of an all-encompassing State; the right people haven’t done it yet; Stephen Wolfe’s hoped-for “Great Man” has not yet arrived.

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