It’s easy for cultural conservatives to become jaded in today’s world. Despite all the efforts to fight the tides of progressive secularism and radical leftism, every institution, including many mainline churches, have succumbed. Consequently, younger generations have rejected the faith of the fathers, the political and moral wisdom of their predecessors, and even their own biology.
Austin Ruse, a man who entered the fray long ago and continues to fight, hopes to galvanize his side to keep fighting with his newest book Under Siege: No Finer time to Be a Faithful Catholic. Based on a speech he gave to various Catholic groups, Ruse’s book acknowledges the many challenges facing Christians and conservatives today and offers a path forward.
Hoping to reach a general audience, Ruse keeps his argument simple and clear: First, he reviews the many problems plaguing the developed world. Second, he discusses the causes for these problems and offers context. Finally, he makes a call to action to combat these problems. All throughout, he keeps his points concise and supports them with current examples.
Descending Into the Abyss
Ruse begins by inviting his readers to “descend into the abyss.” Having many years of experience of being a cultural warrior, he compares himself to the battle-hardened replicant Roy Batty, who grimly declares, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” In particular, he goes into detail about the horrors of transgenderism, child pornography, adult pornography, abortion, and sexual predators in the church.
Besides the grisly details, which Ruse doesn’t shy from sharing, what is disturbing is the sheer extent of these problems. Transgenderism has gone from being a rare occurrence to a popular lifestyle choice with thousands of clinics willing to perform surgery and offer hormone treatments to confused minors and adults.
Child pornography is rampant and reinforced through sexual education programs and various media outlets. This problem is directly tied to the ubiquity of adult pornography, which has become the most popular and profitable online business by far.
In this kind of environment—which Ruse compares to the time of ancient peoples sacrificing children to Moloch—abortion continues to murder millions of infants and has arguably expanded into legalized infanticide. Meanwhile, the church continues to sell off property and dole out millions in settlements because of predators in the priesthood.
After presenting case after case of modern immorality, Ruse then considers their cause. In doing so, he takes on two popular assumptions: that these problems are separate from politics and that the world has become less religious. On the contrary, he asserts that politics do play a large role in enabling and even spreading these problems and that this is part of a religious impulse.
Ruse takes on Andrew Breitbart’s quote, “Politics is downstream from culture,” which has become something of a conservative cliche. After giving some history behind the idea of separating church and state, the central idea that separates the realms of politics and culture, Ruse explains how this has changed in recent decades.
More often than not, politics has come to determine culture through Supreme Court decisions, starting with the 1962 decision on school prayer, Engel v. Vitale. From there, the Supreme Court would overrule the will of Christian Americans (once a majority) on decisions like legalizing abortion, gay marriage, and no-fault divorce.
As politics has pushed out the church, Ruse argues it has become a new kind of church in itself. It has its own priesthood, dogma, and sects, all of whom are protected by the government. Although these movements claim to be based in science, it is usually blind belief. However, if anyone argues against any of these beliefs, he will be persecuted and canceled, just as heretics did to Catholic inquisitors.
Far from seeing a decline in religiosity, Ruse asserts that modern Americans are just as religious as ever, except that their religion resembles more the paganism of Ancient Rome than the Protestant Christianity of the Founding Fathers. Already, society has adopted the exploitative sexual mores of Rome; to this, they have added a host of New Age beliefs coupled with woke puritanism.
Live Not By Fear
In the final section of the book, Ruse offers ways to respond to the current crisis. Before presenting his own solutions, he examines what too many Catholics and conservatives have been doing thus far. In his estimation, they have been acting primarily out of fear more than anything else—hence the title of his sixth chapter, “Live Not by Fear.”
This fear manifests itself in three ways: retreating from society, indulging in nostalgia, and losing oneself in endless distractions. In characteristic fashion, Ruse is unapologetic about what he sees as a hindrance to winning the culture wars.
He calls out Rod Dreher and his famous “Benedict Option,” along with Steve Skojek, a popular Catholic writer who openly despairs of the church’s future. He does the same with traditionalist Catholics such as Brent Bozell Jr., who has fantasized about reviving a Catholic monarchy. As for the great majority of Catholics who drown out reality by consuming entertainment without end, Ruse laments, “So many halos and so many crosses are ignored because we spend so much time distracted.”
Rather than resort to these activities, Ruse encourages his readers to move forward, or at least stand strong. Surprisingly, he is realistic and modest in his call to action. Unlike many activists, he doesn’t take the approach of Harvard professor Peter Singer, who effectively blackmails the audience into action and support, essentially saying, “Now that you know how bad things are, you are morally obligated to do something or you are part of the problem.”
Ruse does not use guilt to pressure his reader into action, but appeals to hope. As he demonstrates in his final chapter, “No Finer Time to Be a Faithful Catholic,” there are many things in which to take heart. He mentions the many saints and martyrs, children in particular, still doing holy work around the world.
He mentions Catholic media outlets, publishing houses, universities, and other resources available to everyone wanting to grow in their faith. He points out the world still cares a great deal about what happens in the church, even they often disagree with it.
In his final few pages, Ruse first tells his reader to stop accepting the premise and the distorted language of the left. Then, he offers three routes: offering quiet support to groups taking on today’s challenges, “flying the flag” and declaring one’s loyalties to the public, or “charging the sniper’s nest” and taking a key role in various activist groups. Whatever route one chooses, it is time to do something.
Overall, Ruse makes a compelling and practical case for wary Catholics specifically, and conservatives in general. His language and reasoning are uncluttered and direct. His book is concise and surprisingly positive, making it an enjoyable as well as an inspiring read. Hopefully, it’ll likely become one of those books people pass on to their friends and family to join in the struggle. As Ruse puts it, there’s no better time to get started than now.