Forget retreat. Triumphalism is two centuries ago. The time has come to change our strategic thinking as Christians. We should not retreat from the culture or pretend the culture is friendly. Assume the barbarians control the old key points and best cities.
The time has come to build a new city, develop a better alternative culture, and compete with ideas. Christianity is true and the fads of this century will soon be dated. If America wishes to go to the devil, there is no reason for any given region to follow. Reject the folly of armed rebellion or open disobedience. Instead, we have to provide alternatives.
Constantine faced an Empire in terminal decline. The heart of the nation was Rome, but the Imperial City was effete, awash in vice, and a parasite on the more productive parts of his dominions. Constantine finally left and built a new city. Rome remained an Imperial City, but Constantine changed the calculation by building a second city. If you cannot fix Rome, build a new Christian city in a great location.
The culture war as it is framed at present is win or lose and we are losing. The high ground is held by the opponents of traditional Christianity. We do not control popular or elite opinion making institutions. Providentially, technology is going to allow us to circumvent the old systems. We can make film, networks, schools, music, and art while bypassing the old gatekeepers. We will stay wherever we can (if Hollywood wants to join us, they are welcome!), but where unwelcome, we will not retreat: we will build a new city.
We must start to network and do something, even if it starts small. The immediate result of going Constantine will look like retreat: the new city will start empty and small. Neither should we simply build a “Christian Harvard” or a “Christian ABC.” If we just build a knock-off, we will always be inferior to the original. Instead, technology allows for the economy of small. Education is an example: we need small, integrated pre-school-through college schools that are classical, competency based, and Christian. We can squeeze the debt out of education by focusing schools on education. These small schools can be linked so nobody has to do everything and choices multiply.
The new city, the Constantinople, can be virtual not physical. We must demand quality, because it is quality that will drive competing worldviews to look hard at what we are doing. We can start by saving the classical and the difficult art of the past from obsolescence. We can do classical theater, preserve classical forms of art, and music. This will require investment, but our community has the money if we realize that we are on our own. The barbarians are not going to produce much we enjoy.
And, yet, whenever we can, the Constantinian will make allies and friends. If someone makes a great movie (like the recent Ida), we can celebrate it and give awards to it. We must never award schlock because we made it or ignore great art because it came from pagan hands. Instead, we must claim as our rightful due all the good, true, and beautiful things we can find and use them. A citizen of Constantinople lives surrounded by enemies and chooses to build a university, create glorious churches, and patronize the arts! And a true Byzantine knows that if you build a city beautiful enough, even enemies can be converted to allies and friends.
We do not have too many Christian schools, films, music, or churches. We have too few. Perhaps, some must change or die, but no Christian roots for this. Instead, we need more and diverse cultural approaches. There will be no one right way to do things. We need new wineskins for the new wine, but the old wine is still worth keeping!
The battle of the culture is not mere politics, though it will have a political element. It is not “against” any particular religion, group of people, or cause. It is for Christendom: Christ and His Kingdom. A Constantine strategy recognizes that the Kingdom is now and is coming. We do not seek Utopia. We have also learned a thing or two since the days of the actual Constantine and eschew imperial answers.
Constantine found new solutions to Roman problems . . . he did not ape the solutions of the past.
The Amish prove that building an alternative, even very radically different, society is possible. They reject Constantine as a figure in history, but in one way have followed his technique by building a community within the bigger community. If the bigger community ever collapsed, the Amish could carry on. We must do the same, but do so with republican values. We do not need one guru (God forbid!) in this age. Instead, we need communities linked together and accountable. We will confess our sins, openly, one to another so that we can grow more righteous. We can choose to locate in the inner cities, Appalachia, or other places where this Republic is most broken and show solidarity with the people there. We can serve.
We must replace “empire” with a global community. Christianity is booming globally. Secularism is dying. American Constantinians need to be greater than a region or a city: we must embrace the world. We will not come to rule, God forgive us for the old colonialism, but to learn and stand in solidarity with the Church universal. We shall all be colonies of Heaven. The American Constantinian will preserve his nation, America, by finding cures for her ills in the strengths of other nations. We will humble ourselves and learn from the global church. We can become part of a Commonwealth in Christendom.
We will suffer, but as people of the cross, we do not need a new vision to tell us this: in this sign, the Holy Cross, we will conquer. Mostly we will conquer the world, the flesh, and devil in us,knowing that if we lift Him up, then He will draw all to Himself.
God help us.