Every time I play a game of chess with two fianchettoed bishops on the same diagonal, I imagine what the pied pair of churchmen must be thinking. Father White is a fellow man of the cloth! My player be damned—I’ll not attack him and dishonor my vows. It’s hard to imagine two hierarchs crossing crosiers.
The black-and-white concept of countries as discrete pieces struggling for position on a global chessboard has been the operating foreign policy paradigm since the rise of nation-statism as a staple of modernity. Listen to any international relations expert or foreign policy journalist. Regardless of how the actual citizens of a country regard their official allies and enemies, the position and goals of a global chess piece are reducible to the monolithic consensus of her elite string-pullers. Under one President, “America” (a small cadre of unelected cabinet bureaucrats) makes parlay with Iran; under another, she returns to Saudi Arabia. Russia must always be treated as a foe, for reasons unexplained; Israel a friend. Never mind American citizens who, like the brother bishops arrayed on opposite sides of the chessboard, find more in common with this year’s bombing target than they do with their own government.
When history evaluates the opening decades of the twenty-first century, it now seems fated to describe a “nationalist wave” that pushed back against “globalism.” Mass populist movements, dissatisfied with the crony capitalism and mass consumerism that enriched international bankers and businessmen at the expense of middle-class workers, voted for disruption in the form of Brexit and Donald Trump, with smaller (and growing?) ripple effects throughout the European continent. Such an analysis is not false, but is missing a massive piece of the puzzle.
The globalists and their allies—the corporate media, financiers, educators, celebrities, technocrats, and most politicians—share a common vision of the world, a solidarity if you will. This becomes evident when they act in concert to support each other without a clear diplomatic motive for doing so: former President Obama endorsing Emmanuel Macron, the bureaucratic “deep state” actively working against Donald Trump’s executive branch, George Soros’ non-profit organizations donating hundreds of millions to left-wing parties in numerous countries, or the American media joining the year-long “Project Fear” campaign to undermine support for Brexit. The term “globalist” rightly carries with it connotations of progressive utopianism and totalitarian secularism for these reasons.
Where this analysis of world politics goes wrong is when globalists are depicted as battling something called “nationalism.” Marine LePen was identified as a “far-right nationalist,” Trump supporters were labeled “white nationalists,” and I recall one pundit naming the Brexit referendum “the siren song of British nationalism.” Those who use this term often blur the lines between civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism, thus stereotyping any support for the above political movements as a “whitelash,” “islamophobic crusade,” or similar sign of identitarian prejudice.
Yet the actual supporters of these movements have pushed back against the idea that their ideology is reducible to a nation-by-nation “love of country.” Many of these so-called nationalists insist that they are by no means pawns on the front line of their nation’s regime. This has become especially true as the workaday employees of these regimes (mostly lifelong “public servants”) show themselves more and more in service of the global solidarity network. “Nationalists” do not love their parliaments or congresses. They do not love their state education systems or national/corporate broadcasting services. They do not love paying taxes, nor do they support the majority of expenditures their taxes are used for. Most American “nationalists” would call themselves patriots, but in service to which half of our divided country? The multiculturalist technocratic coastal utopias or the loosely confederated heartland communities?
When one observes nationalist movements around the world, the ideological commonalities and connections between them become immediately apparent. Everywhere, in almost every country, there is a percentage of the populace dedicated to traditionalism and, for lack of a better word, anti-leftism. This is not simply a nationalist phenomenon driven by personal pride in the nation-state, as it was at the outset of World War II, but another globalist one. Nor is it only a Huntingtonian clash of civilizations, for nations hailing from all the world’s ancient civilizations have participated in analogous rejections of modernity run amok.
Far and away the most substantial component of this “other globalism” is Christianity and the rooted culture that always accompanies it. Creed and cult transcend artificial borders and governments far better than constitution or community. No wall will ever keep Catholics in Mexico from receiving the same Eucharist as Catholics in Arizona. Arab Christians in America fumed as the Obama administration supported jihadist rebels in Syria in an attempt to topple Bashar Al-Assad, causing the massacre of over a million Christians. Traditional Christians around the world recognize much to approve in the Orthodox ethos of Russia’s conservative domestic policy.
Of course, this type of traditionalist “globalism,” unlike the consumerist liberalism that typically bears the name, is united mostly by what it opposes. Abhorring an activist judiciary, the destruction of the family, constant demographic flux, and technocracy does not make you ideological; it makes you normal. Within this silent majority of normal humans, however, lie cracks along the very same fault lines that existed long before modernity. Orthodox and Catholics have repeatedly called for cooperation on the moral challenges of our day, but are miles away from agreement over the fundamental organization, practices, and even doctrines of ancient Christianity. Evangelicals and Mormons may share a profound solidarity on social conservatism and American dominionism, but not on, for example, whether they worship the same God. Protestant missionary groups go back and forth over whether Eastern Europe is the last holdout of gospel Christianity or a spiritual wasteland in dire need of proselytization.
The dark mirror for this disparate unity of the anti-left, perhaps, is the opposition to the “decadent West” repeatedly heard from majority-Muslim countries. The many branches and reforms of Islam, whose adherents are famously incapable of peaceful coexistence, nevertheless share equal hatred for secularist, Christian, and especially Jew. Few experts could tell a classic Khamenei anti-American rant from a vintage Hussein. And it is hard to forget the tactical coordination between Sunni and Shia countries during Israel’s Six-Day War of 1967. Similar to the traditional vision of Christendom, the Muslim brand of “globalism” is a cultural commitment to the Dar al-Islam * that has colored the rest of their world a *Dar al-Harb (House of War).
It should not be surprising that many who live and work in the secular globalist order of liberal democratic capitalism find all such anti-modern sentiment, whether Christian or otherwise, troubling or even terrifying. The idea that traditional Christians of many stripes, in many countries, would operate in concert to reject both the degeneracy of secularism and the fundamentalism of Islam—seizing the dragon by both horns, as it were—correctly frightens all collaborators with post-modernity, from the tax-dodging international shipping magnate to the Silicon Valley social engineer. Is the terror of these globalists truly a result of some never-before-seen, unexplainable “nationalist wave”? Or is it rather the first spasms of Christendom’s long-dormant ghost, risen like the specter of Charlemagne to counter both the globalism of leftist progressives and of violent Islamists?
Clearly the latter cannot be wholly true. Like Charlemagne, Arthur, and Constantine (legends notwithstanding), Christendom as a political entity is still very thoroughly dead. Brexit did not happen because of Christianity. Donald Trump was not elected for his sincerity of faith. The neo-reactionary politics of the global anti-left is by no means unanimously Christian. Yet nationalism cannot be the whole explanation either. Too many connections, too much solidarity, exists among the different nationalities of traditional orthodox believers who stand athwart the rising tide of progressivism. If globalism operates as a sort of religion, doesn’t religion also constitute a sort of globalism?
It's almost as if the Church were universal, or something.
The only thing keeping “nationalism” in the news, as if it could explain all such phenomena, is modernity’s dogma that politics must subsume all allegiances and loves. Surely this worldwide rejection of progressive utopianism is about national sovereignty and individual rights! Statism! Etc. Moreover, there is a lack of unity within the Christian anti-left due to centuries-old divisions. This prevents most commentators from forecasting any “resurrection of Christendom.” But if the march of globalist totalitarianism continues unabated, holy coalitions may form between separated brethren, and perhaps even true Christian unity—another globalism—may arise. Only God knows whether it will happen in time. Until then, we bishops (you know who you are) have to stick together, regardless of color.