At my own blog, I’ve been arguing that the Catholic Church (and, I would expect, many others) suffers grievously from a lack among the baptized of basic “tribal” identification with the Church and with Catholics throughout the ages. They fail to identify attacks on the Church and on prior generations of Christians as attacks on themselves and upon their people, and they fail to apply to their attackers the category of enemy. In this, they are encouraged by theologians, apologists, and prelates who dismiss “tribalism”–including the whole moral consideration of loyalty, or any application of the friend-enemy distinction–as an intellectual or moral failing.
I think this issue is ready for wider discussion. Of course, the fate of the Roman Catholic Church is a matter of interest to most readers here, but I don’t think this weakness is unique to my Church. Since the point is particularist loyalty, I can be clearer if I continue to write below about this one ecclesial body, with the applications to Orthodox and Protestant bodies being direct and obvious analogies. My key points are
- It is licit to love the people and culture of Christian civilization, not only Christ Himself and the doctrines of the Church. There is nothing admirable in apologizing for or berating one’s ancestors in an attempt to win credibility with a hostile world.
- This is the main reason we’re loosing most of our young people. America and the mystical body of Christ are at war. If our children are given a strong visceral identification with the former but not the latter, we can expect them to apostatize. Teaching children rigorous arguments for all the doctrines of the faith is impossible (they leave home before they’re ready for it). Teaching them to identify as Catholic and see religious disputes through a friend-enemy lens is much easier.
- Grace builds upon nature. We should not scorn natural attachment to the Christian people out of a misguided preference for a purely supernatural attachment to the Triune God. Natural loyalty is a help, not a hinderance to the growth of charity. One who looks on past generations of Christians with affection is better prepared to love the Faith than one who looks on them with politically correct scorn.
- Following Carl Schmitt, we should recognize the distinctness of the friend-enemy categorization. Groups outside the true Church are to some extent in error and morally deficient, but the ascription of enemy status to a group is not directly a statement of its heterodoxy or of the personal sinfulness of its members. The enemy is the group that is a threat to our corporate existence, the group that is attacking us. Conversely, we can recognize other conservative Christian groups as allies without minimizing our theological differences.