Recently, Rod Dreher wrote an article for The American Conservative on the origins of anti-clericalism in Spain (yeah, I know, I know, I don’t like Rod either, but a Facebook friend of mine posted it and it looked interesting). Anyway, for a brief rundown of the article the origins of anti-clericalism in Spain (as well as France) can be laid at the feet of the perception that religion was for women and weak men. In short, Christianity was seen as a barrier to manhood with its emphasis on meekness and passivity, so while women could be deeply religious (as it was seen as enforcing female chastity) men were expected to put away religion, except for cultural reasons, when they developed a more somber mind. And less you think this is a Catholic problem with its priestly celibacy, it’s not. The same situation played itself out in Protestant counties as well. The origin of Nietzsche’s, the son of a Lutheran minister, anti-Christian stance was a perception that it was for women and the weak.
It is then that it hit me why anti-clericalism was never able to take root in Dixie until at least a few years ago- it was seen as a healthy expression for masculinity. When I was in college and first came across the idea that Christianity was seen as being “for women” I was honestly surprised. Not in a “Christianity oppresses women” sort of way, but because to me there was no contradiction between Christianity and masculinity. Examples of devout Christians were Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Johnny Cash, and my granddaddy. And, if those men weren’t masculine, then there wasn’t much hope for the rest of us. In my mind, proper Dixian manhood included a strong Christian faith.
And, this is why I think after so many years of being noted for our religiosity, religious adherence is finally in decline in Dixie- a generation rose up and tried to make religion all fun and games, essentially teaching the next generation that religion was for children and women and thus had no bearing on their lives as men. Religious services stopped being about the worship of God and began to resemble entertainment venues. Subjects that might ruffle some feathers, namely Hell, were either openly thrown out or not talked about. I’m sorry, but if the pastor won’t preach on Hell, out of some misbegotten fear of offending some cat lady, then what does that say about his manhood?
And, for that matter, what does it say about the place of manhood in Christianity? Pastors focused on making Christianity “cool and hip” in hopes of drawing in new people, but the problem with being “cool and hip” is that it is, by its very nature, a trend and people eventually grow out of trends. I am reminded of a King of the Hill episode where Hank makes Bobby quit the cool skateboarding church he’s been attending and start attending his regular, more traditional church instead. Upon Bobby questioning Hank on why he made him quit, Hank shows Bobby a box of all the things Bobby used to think were cool saying, “I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.”
I am a traditional Catholic and we have a saying – “if it does not belong at the foot of the cross if does not belong in mass” in response to the abuses that sprang up in the wake of Vatican II (examples- clown masses, Seattle Seahawks masses, “gay” masses, etc.). I know that the majority of Dixians are Protestant, regardless of that, “seriousness” is required for mass (or any Christian service) and it also implies sacrifice, something that must be in any form of healthy masculinity.
I use the term “healthy masculinity” deliberately here because there are many forms of “masculinity” that are extremely unhealthy- i.e. pick-up artists, drinking to excess, pride in being a slob, and an obsession with sports just to name a few. When feminists talk about “toxic masculinity” they have a point, but what they fail to realize is that the social upheaval of the 60s and 70s that they praise robbed three generations of men and counting of any healthy form of masculinity. Thus, it left them to only have the unhealthy ones promoted by Hollywood. And, the consequences of this have been devastating – ranging from the celebration of stupidity to whiny incels that would rather bitch about their state of life on the internet than actually getting off their ass and doing something to change it. Sadly, you also have the terrible cases that can’t be ignored – incel mass shooters.
One of my favorite memes is “I wish blastoise was my dad, things would be different around here.” For those of y’all that don’t know, for several years this kid was posting about how his step-dad beat him and his mom, adding that famous phrase at the end of the post. Around the time it initially hit, I was discussing it with two of my friends. After we all laughed about it (and kinda feeling bad for laughing), one of my friends added, “it does show the decline of masculinity- other generations had John Wayne and Clint Eastwood- we have blastoise.”
This is, at the heart of it, why I think Dixie has been able to hold out for as long as she has- there was a healthy avenue for masculinity (one of the last TV shows that had a healthy depiction of manhood was The Dukes of Hazzard) and it was held together by Christianity. For generations Dixian men taught their children to take religion seriously and, in the case of their sons, it gave them a healthy way in which they could express their masculinity. But, in a generation it was all destroyed in an effort to make “Jesus cool.” Today, we are dealing with the consequences- an increased hatred of the traditional teachings of Christianity in our land and a generation of soy boys and incels. To get ourselves out of this we must stop seeing church as entertainment and see it in terms of sacrifice, bravery, and honor- masculine values that have served Dixie in her darkest moments and can once again.
Oh, I'm a good old Rebel, now that's just what I am; For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn! I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won, And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.