I’ve written a lot against the pervasive hysteria that will define 2020 for the rest of history, but I don’t think it has had purely bad effects. As a matter of fact, I suspect it was an answer to prayer in many ways; the sort of answer to prayer that I’ve heard mature Christians caution their brothers about. “That’s a great thing to pray for, but you might not like how God does it.”

This year has seen a massive rise in homeschooling and private schooling. While public schools seem to be interpreting this exclusively as fear of the virus, the parents choosing these alternatives seem to be more concerned with the insane response the schools have had, to say nothing of the radical leftist propaganda that’s replaced the substance of education. We should be thankful that so many mothers and fathers are now raising their children.

We’ve also seen a winnowing of sacred and secular leadership. When there is plenty, everyone talks about liberty and rights and freedom and love and courage. It’s easy. There’s no risk. But then things get rough. And when things get rough, we get to see everyone, ironically, without their masks. We should be thankful that we’ve been able to see the truth.

It’s this latter point I want to consider more fully.

Tyranny is Natural

I don’t listen to talk radio these days, but years ago, Rush Limbaugh would be on my radio at least an hour a day. Among his many recurring ideas was how odd the United States of America is. Human history is a long story of oppressive governments, death, famine, slavery, and misery. The average American, on the other hand, lives in luxury that eclipses the lifestyles of the emperors of the ancient world. We have more food of more variety than we can even comprehend. All of that could be attributed to our technological innovation, though. What’s most curious is that we don’t have an oppressive government. We actually have liberty.

Libertarians and liberals alike have an idiosyncratic way of defining liberty. They tend to see it as the ability to do whatever you want. This presumes first, that you desire what you ought to desire, and second, that what you want is the total sum of what is good. To the former, it is obviously false that we don’t desire what we want (just observe what happens in the life of a typical lottery winner or child actor). To the latter, we have moral obligations, and even upright people don’t always want them.

In the United States, we have liberty in the classical sense. We have the freedom to live good lives; lives that are morally good. Lives that pursue what is good, true, and beautiful. We should always view politicians with skepticism when they want to give us new “rights”, since politicians have incentives to maintain and even grow their own power, not to provide us with true liberty. What they are offering is a way of increasing their influence in our lives in a package that kinda, sorta looks like the libertarian form of liberty. It appeals to us because are fallen, and we are envious and jealous.

The only reason for this historical anomaly seems to be the profound influence of Christianity on America’s founders. Christianity, being true, is fully compatible with true liberty. In fact, it really demands it whenever Christians can bring it about.

This year, however, we got to see just how fragile these protections of our liberty really are. Under the facade of a viral outbreak that, in retrospect, doesn’t even rise to the level of the Hong Kong Flu, politicians lusted for power and gave themselves as much as they could. Many still add more. The less threatening the situation, the more power they grab, and the more fear they try to spread. Fear, it turns out, is a very effective way to convince people to give up their liberty.

Soft Churches

Traditionally, the force that stood against tyranny in the United States was the Christian church. Christian ministers got the founders to declare independence. Christian men built a form of government that protected liberty. Christian abolitionists got slavery abolished. Christians opposed eugenics and the Nazi’s who embraced it even while secularists jumped on board before the war.

During the Hong Kong Flu of the late 1960’s, there was no push for tyranny, and Christians likely would have put a stop to it. But something pretty fundamental changed in the 1960’s that has continued to this day, eating away at the strength of the church. The church has lost its masculinity.

It isn’t quite true to say that the sexual revolution of the 1960’s is where this trend started, but it’s fair to say it was the turning point. Prior to that, Christians still took the Bible seriously when it declared that wives ought to submit to their husbands, or that it was good that men were the usual leaders of nations. After the revolution, masculinity in the culture declined rapidly and the church, sadly influenced by the culture, followed close behind.

War

What we needed most in 2020 was a church ready to fight passionately for liberty. And what we got instead were many churches that even six months later, and long after much of Europe has gone back to normal because we know how mild the coronavirus is, are still closed.

We got this for many reasons, but I think the decisive reason is the lack of strong, masculine men in the church. Churches and ministries are filled with effeminate and weak men who won’t stand up for anything, let alone fight. But we are in a spiritual war – this year has made that obvious, too – and we need warriors who are less concerned with tone than the truth.

What we need is actual courage to fight an actual war that’s been raging since the Garden. The military language used through the New Testament is often softened today to be purely metaphorical. “Fight, sure, but that means radically loving Jesus”. I’m not sure what “radically loving Jesus” means, but Jesus said if we love Him, we will obey Him. That means making disciples, doing what is right and standing up to evil. It doesn’t mean talking softly and carefully to make sure no one gets offended. It also doesn’t mean pacifism. As our Christian ancestors understood, only a naive and unthinking reading of the Bible would lead to pacifist Christians who let the world burn down.

We need men who are willing to get into physical shape, prepare for conflict, learn doctrine, philosophy, and classical political theory, and be prepared for dark times. We need men who are prepared to provide for their families even if the stores close down. We need men prepared to lead their families even if the churches abandon their responsibilities.

This year finally pushed me to acknowledging where I’m failing to do my part in these things. I’ve always had strong views on things that I’ve taken time to learn about, but I haven’t physically responded. We should be thankful that 2020 has made these responsibilities more obvious than they’ve been in generations. And we should be thankful that 2020 has exposed all the weaknesses that had been covered up.