If there’s anything you don’t expect to see in the subject line of an email on Easter Sunday, it’s RIP. But Easter is when unexpected things happen. On this holiest day of days in 2019, Aaron D. Wolf sang with his family in the morning and the choir invisible in the evening.
Aaron was the executive editor of Chronicles magazine, published by the Charlemagne Institute. He was a man of insight, wit, kindness, humility, and integrity. He was 45 years old. Seeing his name attached to an RIP feels like watching the dwarfs shoot down the horses.
If you’re not familiar with Aaron’s writing, good things are in store for you. He is difficult to excerpt. Aaron did not boink doctrinaire slogans together like pop beads, knocking out bargain souvenirs for the day’s crisis. He was a rhetorician, weaving knowledge into wisdom on a loom of virtue. His essays on a screen resemble Beef Bourguignon on a paper plate. Alas, here we are. If you don’t have time right now, do yourself the favor of saving these (and many others) for a rainy day.
‘Farewell to Spare Oom’ (2006)
When the ‘neo-evangelical’ movement began in the middle of the 20th century, and evangelical Americans set out to distinguish themselves from fundamentalists, their chief goal was to ‘engage the culture.’ One way of doing this was to imitate popular entertainment, and this resulted in the creation of ‘contemporary Christian music’ and many embarrassing films.
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ took this to a new level. Mel was cool and one of us—except for his staunch, almost fanatical Roman Catholicism, but this is about getting the Gospel out there, and we can overlook the nonbiblical portions of the script supplied by Anne Catherine Emmerich. (Some church groups at least wondered whether it was acceptable to eat popcorn while watching “Jesus” being crucified.) I remember the looks of shock I received when I suggested that a(nother) ‘Jesus movie’ will not save America, because film is a medium of entertainment, not particularly suitable for preaching the Gospel.
‘Nonsense!’ was the usual reply. ‘If just one person believes in Christ because of something he saw in this movie, it will be worth it!’ In that spirit, churches all over the country rented theaters, brought people by the busload, and produced mountains of Passion of the Christ promotional and study materials. And the product was deeply satisfying for the vast majority of those who purchased it: Of course, it was the most powerful movie ever made! Now I really know what Jesus did for me!
And what did this Technicolor Jesus do for you? For evangelicals, he provided all of us with an opportunity to ask him into our hearts. For Mel Gibson (according to the juxtapositions during the crucifixion scene), he provided the Mass. For Sean Hannity, he provided an example of what happens when you tell the truth to liberals. In short, this special-effects blood-and-gore pretend Jesus was whatever you wanted him to be.
‘Democracy and Infanticide’ (2019)
A base as massive as ours will always tend toward baseness—unless it has a profound religious sensibility to keep it in check. And Christianity, being the one true Faith, cannot be replaced by a mere civic religion, neopaganism, nationalism, racialism (white or nonwhite), or citizenism; God is not mocked. Yet Christianity does not know how to operate apart from those mediating institutions which it instinctively creates and inspires: The Church must create culture, for She seeks to cultivate saints.
Conversely, the death of America’s mediating institutions—of family, school, university, neighborhood, community, local government, arts and letters—is the direct result of the Church’s failure to uphold the natural order, to cultivate virtue, to create culture. Cultural Marxists cannot march through Christian institutions.
Today, ‘conservative’ Church leaders seek shelter under the wings of liberal democracy, repeating the bromides of the Enlightenment, touting abstract ‘religious freedom’ as if it were written by the finger of God on tablets of stone. Instead of saying ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ they apologize for the Church’s failure to defend human rights. They speak not as prophets but as Jacobins.
‘I Heart Big Brother’ (2015)
The real question—for the adulterers of Ashley Madison, and for the rest of us as well—is, would we make the same stupid choice again? Here’s the pitch: What if I could offer you the ability to shop right there at your desktop computer, your laptop, or phone? What if, instead of going to a library or purchasing a map at a gas station, you could simply look up information where you sit? What if you could turn in your homework with the touch of a button, instead of having to print it out or write on paper? Pay your bills! See pictures of old friends and even people you’ve never met! Vote! Play video games! Refill your meds! You’ll never have to get out of your chair again! The only thing you’ll have to give up is every shred of privacy, while rendering meaningless or at least superfluous most face-to-face interaction.
Today, our privacy is mostly an illusion. … If we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that we’re all one good hack away from devastating embarrassment in one form or another.
This online world we now cherish is based on the illusion of anonymity—just me and my computer in a darkened room, searching for images of that hot actress or discolored mole, for information on this fringe group or that taboo thought, posting our I.P.-address identifiable pseudonymous zingers in the comment section, blogging our hearts out, clicking on the latest rumor, thrill-seeking an instant and ephemeral opinion to skim and share. Those moments are gone, but their digital records are out there on hard drives mirrored and accessible via the World-Wide Web. How long will it be before some hacker crafts the perfect This Is Your Life algorithm and offers up the results for the world to read?
‘Adopt a Refugee’ (1999)
‘Adopt a refugee,’ the church bulletin urges. This Protestant church is encouraging each of its members to donate money, clothing, and personal items to the ethnic Albanian of his choice. On a marquee in front of an ornate Catholic church outside O’Hare Airport are the words, ‘Father, protect the refugees, in Jesus’ name. Amen.’ An ad in the Rockford Register Star announces an evangelical rock band’s ‘Concert for the Kosovar Refugees.’ And church leaders—from local priests and pastors to heads of synods, traveling speakers, and televangelists—seem to agree with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair that Slobodan Milosevic is the latest incarnation of Hitler. American Christians, it seems, are ‘sending a message”‘ of their own to the people of Serbia.
It is a message not readily understood by Serbian Orthodox immigrants to America. ‘Don’t they know the KLA is an Islamic terrorist group?’ they ask. ‘Don’t they realize that the Serbs are their Christian brothers and sisters?’ …
American believers who back NATO are not self-consciously ‘social-gospel’ liberals. Many are members of the Christian right. Indefatigable in their opposition to abortion and homosexuality, they continue to press for federally—now imperialistically—imposed morality, abstracted from any historical context, and derived largely from popular sentiment.
‘Adopt a refugee’ campaigns in churches across America are not about loving one’s enemy. They are a cathartic response to 24-hour-a-day CNN broadcasts of people huddled in tents in Albania and Macedonia. They carry with them the sentiments of Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, molded by two centuries of American evangelicalism. Articles reminding us that ethnic Albanians are responsible for the heroin trade in Europe and for teenage prostitution in Italy and have engaged in terrorist acts against the Serbian police simply cannot trump the sentiments that arise when evangelicals view footage of crying children.
We do not see footage of dead Serbian children or their crying mothers, and so the Serbs become a mere afterthought—collateral damage, a necessary evil, like the ravaging of Atlanta and Columbia in the mid-1860s. Nonetheless, the fact remains that 10,000 hours of Christiane Amanpour and Geraldo Rivera could not diminish the resolve nor confuse the loyalties of a people with an identity established not by cause or sentiment, but by the Nicene Creed. Save for a small remnant, that type of American Christian has long since perished from the earth.
‘Home Church’ (2008)
Daniel, as you may recall, was a eunuch—he was made ‘prince of the eunuchs,’ in fact, against his will. Most American Christian men, on the other hand, are neither slaves nor eunuchs—or at least they weren’t before the vasectomy. Like most men throughout time, they have families. Stretching back as far as the patriarch Job (before Moses and perhaps before Abraham), a man was priest of his household. The addition of the Tabernacle some years later, then the Temple, then the synagogue, and their transformation and fulfillment in Christ and His Church, did not mitigate the responsibility of the father. …
There is much to deplore in today’s churches—pap-filled psychobabble sermons, excruciating pop music, the silliness of dramas and dances—but the fact remains: Home is not church. We can set aside (for the briefest of moments) what this or that denomination may teach about ordination and the sacraments. There is no way to read the history of the early Church or the Pastoral Epistles and conclude that, when things go badly at church, you can start your own at home. What to do, then? …
American men prefer a quick and one-sided fix. Bariatric surgery beats diet and daily exercise. Voting will save babies. Eunuchs can better afford to send their kids to college. And yet the days and the seasons and the years continue to pass, the churches become increasingly decadent and irrelevant, and the kids’ mouths get smarter. What does this mean?
It means we have to go home. It means that we have to gather around the table. And it means that Dad must take up the mantle of Job as household priest. This might mean taking some things off our plates. At least here, in the Age of Antichrist, we’re still free to do that.
Buoyed by their anonymous online friends whose imaginations have been deformed by vile ‘ironic’ memes that make light of evil and depict Muslims as subhuman, a few [young men of the Alt-Right] will commit heinous crimes ‘IRL,’ purportedly in ‘defense’ of the West. What do I have to lose? they reason. Or in the words of [New Zealand mass shooter Brenton] Tarrant, ‘WHY DON’T I DO SOMETHING?’
That the ‘Caucasoid’ peoples are succumbing, one after another, to their own ‘replacement’ is a direct result not of genocide, nor even of suicide, but of apostasy. The will to endure hardship in the service of duty, to marry and rear children, to build cultural institutions that will outlast you, to resist falsely conceived characterizations of ‘hate’—Islamophobia included—comes not from racial consciousness but from a simple confidence in the divinely ordained goodness and inviolability of family, kin, the inherited civil order, and the unique cultural institutions by which we pass on this confidence to our children. To attribute these good gifts, even partly, to our own racial merit is as wicked as it is to deny that they are good gifts to begin with. God is not mocked.
Tolerance is not a virtue, and its enforcement predictably leads to resentment and inhumane cruelty. On the other hand, to be magnanimous means literally to have a large soul, one big enough to pursue the highest good in humility and in recognition of one’s estate in the Divine Order. For those conditions to obtain, one must believe that he has a God and a soul—and that others do, too.
Requiescat in pace is a fine thing to say, and our Lord has promised peace for all who fall asleep in his arms like our brother Aaron. But Aaron strikes me more as a Resurgam kind of guy. The life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus Christ was not a theme in the Wolf oeuvre—it was the thesis.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).