From Christian Conservatives, Zero Cheers for Dave Rubin

From Christian Conservatives, Zero Cheers for Dave Rubin March 17, 2022

Yesterday, popular anti-woke talk-show host Dave Rubin tweeted out that he and his gay partner were welcoming two babies later this year. A picture told the whole story, with each of them holding an ultrasound of a child in utero: “Baby #1” and “Baby #2.”

Almost immediately, some wag took the announcement and produced this meme:

Image

(Great meme.)

In response to the news, Jake Meador posted this lament, apropos of the fact that rising anti-CRT activist Chris Rufo had left a bubbly congratulations tweet under the announcement. Jake writes, “For a certain type of anti-woke ‘Christian’ conservative, being ‘anti-woke’ matters more than being faithful to church teaching. This is Conservatism, brought to you by Claremont and the Bronze Age Pervert. And loads of professing Christians are apparently 100% fine with it.”

This generated some discussion. A number of people asked Jake if he could unpack this a bit more. Which professing Christians did he have in mind? I spent a little time scrolling through Rubin’s replies to see what other blue-checks besides Rufo were tweeting their congratulations: PragerU, TheBlaze, Megyn Kelly, Meg McCain, Brad Polumbo, Elisha Krauss. In short, a who’s who of Conservatism, Inc.–think tanks and individuals who consider themselves in some broad sense “on the right,” but…aren’t really on the right. (I did notice, significantly, that there was no comment from Ben Shapiro or the official Daily Wire account.)

What I didn’t see: Professing Christian blue-checks, or even professing Christian small-potatoes accounts. It’s possible that Rufo is a Christian, but if he is, it doesn’t seem to form a contentful part of his public profile. Nobody who’s appreciated his work, me included, has appreciated him “as a Christian.” I’m disappointed but not particularly shocked by the discovery that, like an unfortunately growing number of right-of-centrists, Rufo is yet another social libertarian. But maybe Meador would point out, legitimately, that there’s still a significant sense in which Rufo has earned his reputation as a culture warrior. Specifically, a culture warrior who presents himself as a champion against public school indoctrination of children on gender and sexuality! So, his casual affirmation of gay adoption contrasts interestingly and rather tellingly with that image. It’s a reminder that the phrase “culture warrior” means something rather different in 2022 than it did in 2012. I now plan to fold this into a take I’m currently gestating for American Reformer about various readings of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

But fascinating as that all is, it’s not apt to Meador’s main claim, that “loads” of professing Christians are “100% fine” with this. In replies on his thread, a mutual Christian writing friend replied, “I’m not ok with this. Next.” Jake recognized this but elaborated that “Rufo and Rubin both have *massive* reach (as do [Andrew] Sullivan and [Douglas] Murray) and I see their stuff get shared routinely by anti-woke Christians I know.” When it came to Christians, Meador sharpened his focus to professing Christian writers at the Claremont think tank in particular, saying they’ll happily “run with” any of these types. Meador also mentions “Bronze Age Pervert” in the original tweet, a pseudonymous writer who was platformed by professing Christian American Mind founder Matthew J. Peterson. But as others have noted, Meador already appears to be crossing a couple streams by lumping “BAP” with Dave Rubin, when in fact BAP is known for Milo Yiannopoulos-like rants about things like gay surrogacy (in the moments between being Yet Another Boring White Racist Misogynist Gay, under all the bronze bling). Maybe Jake would wave his hands at that and say “Whatever, it’s all degenerate garbage.” Which, I mean, yes, but for clarity’s sake I still think it’s helpful to get our taxonomy in order here. (Incidentally, Milo was spotted on Telegram declaring to both people who had asked him that Rubin and his partner should be “executed.” In case anyone was wondering where Milo is at these days.)

But I would share Jake’s concern, if I saw what he was claiming to see: widespread, full-throated “anti-woke” Christian conservative support for gay surrogacy and adoption, and by extension gay “marriage.” In point of fact, that’s not what I and many others saw. Quite the contrary. To take two major examples, within an hour of each other both James White and Owen Strachan had tweeted strong warnings against what White calls a “neutrality pact with so-called ‘conservatism.'” White’s full tweet read, “So when will my generation realize that our neutrality pact with so-called “conservatism” was a sell-out, and that today’s conservatives are just secular rebels in slightly slower motion?” (White additionally “ratioed” the official congrats from PragerU with a snarky “Really, PragerU?”) Strachan commented, “Pretty sure I am as conservative as a human being can be, politically. Politics involves alliances. But if we aren’t conserving the natural family, the very first institution God made on the earth, the institution that funds all the others, then we have nothing else to conserve.” Meanwhile, Sam Sey, a popular young Christian anti-woke writer (who happens to be black), quote-tweeted Rubin’s announcement with a powerful rebuke: “I grew up without a father, and that harmed me. If I grew up without a mother, that would have harmed me too. All the ‘conservatives’ supporting this have shamed themselves.” And if we go back before Rubin’s announcement, we can see Craig A. Carter already denouncing Rubin in this World Opinions piece, after Rubin casually mentioned in a NatCon panel discussion that he and his partner were “working on having kids.”

I’m unsure what else Jake would have expected to hear from voices like these. It’s certainly plain that they constitute a very different “anti-woke” tribe from the odd mix at the Claremont think tank, so there’s a limited utility in talking broadly about “anti-woke Christians” as if they form a natural kind. And even in the Claremont orbit, conservative investor Nate Fischer engaged at length in my replies when I took a quick straw poll of reactions, saying he saw pragmatic utility in some collaborative efforts but adamantly opposes gay “marriage” and surrogacy in any context. (In fact, he said if he had his way, he would go whole-hog and abolish no-fault divorce while he was at it.) Fischer is a business partner of Matthew Peterson, whom Meador would point to as an example of a professing Christian who’s compromised his principles. I don’t disagree with Meador that Peterson was a fool to platform Bronze Age Pervert. And if Peterson or any of his colleagues affirms gay “marriage” while also claiming adherence to Christian orthodoxy, I would challenge that as well. I’m open to further specifics if Meador or someone else wants to point to more Claremont pieces which enable social decadence in that area (I don’t really follow them). However, it seems worth mentioning that Claremont doesn’t define itself as a “Christian” think tank and that its big tent includes writers with flatly contradictory views. American Mind co-editor Spencer Klavan, son of Andrew, affirms a version of mainline Christianity that blesses his same-sex “marriage,” which is poles apart from where Fischer is.  But while it’s worth asking “true con” figures like Fischer precisely what utility he sees in such ventures, it seems unfair to paint his ilk as “100% fine” with gay surrogacy.

What seemed to emerge as people drew Meador out is that he was really working less on specifics and more on a gestalt sense of some rank-and-file Christians’ media consumption preferences. He sees that a figure like Chris Rufo is heavily cited and circulated among Christians concerned about post-modern indoctrination in the public school system. He sees that Dave Rubin’s Rubin Report is a popular talk show with a mix of secular and Christian fans. He sees that Douglas Murray’s Madness of Crowds was a go-to “work cited” as Christians discussed the cultural spread of intersectionality politics. And so on. At the same time, he’s noted that many of these same rank-and-file Christian cons intensely dislike pundits such as David French, or evangelical leaders like Russell Moore. This is how, even though they don’t affirm the gay lifestyle or gay family structure, one might in gestalt terms be more likely to sense a “positive energy flow” towards a David Rubin than a David French.

Now, there are all manner of reasons for this. I was beginning to get at them in my last blog here, where I quoted C. S. Lewis’s famous God in the Dock passage on Bulverism. Someone in Jake’s replies reinforced the point I was making there, by implying that perhaps Christian anti-woke types are just subliminally racist, so much so that they’ll wink at sexual libertines who say what they want to hear about race. Never mind factors like the completely non-racial issue of COVID, where Rubin used his platform to advocate for people suffering from governmental overreach, while French shilled for Francis Collins and blindly shamed anyone to his right on pandemic policy. If you want to get some negative energy going, calling people stupid/cowardly/dangerous for disagreeing with you on highly complex policy matters is a fantastic way to start. Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, while French opposed Obergefell’s constitutionality, and while I’ll take other people’s word for it that he’s still personally opposed to gay “marriage,” his laissez faire approach to the “gayification” of pop culture (Drag Queen Story Hour!) hasn’t exactly marked him as the world’s most vocal opponent of gay debauchery in the public square. (Ironically, I’ve seen stronger words on Drag Queen Story Hour from Dave Rubin!) The last time I recall French so much as tweeting anything around this issue, he was applauding this bad take on the Equality Act by Matthew Lee Anderson, whose basic gist was that Christians had better go cap in hand to the gay lobby for a religious liberty bargain now, since they were so mean and bigoted to gays forty years ago. But if French were to bust out a blazing hot take on the perversion of gay adoption tomorrow, naturally I would welcome it.

Here Meador would likely retort that Sohrab Ahmari, French’s Catholic integralist nemesis, seemed fine sharing a stage for that aforementioned NatCon panel with both Rubin and Douglas Murray at NatCon. But that would obscure the point that this particular panel was specifically selected to bring together voices on opposite sides of hot-button topics, to see if they could still be cultural co-belligerents in any meaningful sense. In fact, Ahmari was later spotted on Twitter saying on reflection he didn’t think such an alliance was possible. I can confirm that Murray would share that takeaway. Rubin may be too much of a sunny California optimist to see the writing on the wall. In any case, Ahmari’s sharing that particular stage with Murray and Rubin was hardly a signal that he was comfortable with their lifestyles. Granted, you could fairly argue that he pulled his punches. He missed a number of chances to bring out his differences with either gay man more sharply, perhaps out of some unspoken spirit of collegiality. (He clearly personally likes Douglas Murray more than David French. I mean look, I personally like Douglas Murray more than David French, and not just because Douglas reads my Substack.) All to say, I’m not uncritically “stanning” Ahmari here. He’s not my brand. I’m simply noting that it’s quite possible to overread all sorts of public gestures as if they constitute blanket affirmation.

Anyway. The point: If conservative Christians really were out in force to cheer on Dave Rubin’s game of rent-a-womb, I would be worried. But if all this comes down to in the end is “Some conservative Christians like some things more than other things when I think they should like those other things more,” color me not particularly alarmed. Yet.

What I do think we can say confidently, based on the actual sources of Dave’s congratulations tweets, is that the remnant of real conservatism in this country is small. It’s really small. It’s smaller than we would have hoped, even being pessimistic. Folks, think even more pessimistic. Be prepared to be thought weird by even more people. And spare an encouraging word for people like Allie Beth Stuckey, who tweeted in discouragement that she’s “not even sure conservatism means anything anymore.” Us both, hon.

And yet, having said all that, I do see glimmers of hope here and there, from some unlikely places—for instance, this secular “detransitioner” (a woman who lived as a man, then reversed her hormone therapy), or this self-identified gay man who said the announcement made him “deeply uncomfortable.” A good reminder for us all that the natural light is still out there, still doing its thing.

As for Dave, well…he’s sinning. He’s inviting people to normalize the abnormal. He’s a walking reminder of just how thoroughly this particular culture war has been lost. None of which makes me hate Dave. He seems like a fun guy. He’s made me laugh. I would like him to get saved. I would have a beer with him—a beer over which I would tell him in plain English that I think he’s participating in a degrading consumerist game that hurts everyone involved, including himself. But maybe it wouldn’t land. Maybe it’s too late. Let’s hope not.

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