What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
To be wise as serpents, indeed, is the infallible counsel of Jesus Christ. Therefore let Sunzi be heard, and his words be heeded. Fights in the streets, attractive as they are to young men, who love to prove themselves by martial heroics, are not the way. Instead, the Lord would have us watch for the right time, the ripe time, the time the Greeks call καιρός, the passing instant when an opening appears which an arrow must drive through with force. The space that appears is, in the Zhuangzi, the space into which Cook Ding moves his knife without tiring out the blade: ‘A good cook changes the knife once a year – because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes the knife once a month – because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room – more than enough for the blade to play with. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.’ Such, it seems, is the principle Free Northerner advocates for war against the tyrant: to make no mistakes, be in a position that makes defeat impossible, and never fail to strike at the spaces that open until – ‘flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground.’
About power, then, Free Northerner is no quietist; unlike many advocates of Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, whose hands and tongues are tied by the need to appear respectable and avoid being seen as extremists, he is not shy of seizing power. When they’re ill, he’ll go for the kill. Thus he speaks of power and authority:
As Mao once said, power comes from the barrel of a gun. Power is violence. The ability to force your will on others, even if it might be concealed behind a few layers of a civilized facade. In society, many men have more violent force than any single man, now matter how strong he might be, so man’s capacity for violence comes from his authority, which is, essentially, how many armed men can a man get to follow him?
Authority comes from either illusion or legitimacy. Legitimate authority comes from men obeying you because they accept you are their rightful leader. Illusion comes from people obeying because they believe others perceive you as legitimate and are afraid of the violence they will enact should they disobey. It is necessarily tyrannical. Legitimacy lasts until it is squandered or the authority dies. Illusion and the tyranny that results lasts until someone openly disobeys without consequence and [thus the illusion] is dispelled.
Right now, the left holds power and it holds legitimacy. People believe the left should rule because they believe in equality and the rule of the people, two left-wing ideals. Cthulu continues to swim left as people hold these ideals ever stronger.
The myth that the repræsentative institutions of the liberal state are actually the ‘rule of the people’, of course, is a strong one – though the myth weakens as the people see that the media, which once held them securely in thrall, are baldly and boldly lying. Indeed, Free Northerner says, Golden Dawn in Greece has become a major force precisely by switching, after decades of work with little fruit, from an activist to a passivist strategy. In the face of tyranny, the quiet building of institutions is something I heartily approve of. To gain skills useful to those around us, that is wisdom. To appear weak while building strength, that is wisdom. To be quiet until the perfect moment to speak, that is wisdom. Patience, no doubt, is everything in this game. There is nothing new under the sun. The Church has beaten the ungodly before, and indeed we can and will do it again.
Nevertheless, doing the work required will be more difficult perhaps than many passivists reckon. Free Northerner says,
You can not change the education system to stop being leftist, but you can homeschool your kids. You can’t stop the Supreme Court from driving bakeries out of business, but you can become an elder at your church and keep gay ‘marriage’ out. You can’t change divorce laws, but you can build a working home with a good woman. You can’t stop the feminist invasion and destruction of male public spaces, but you can create your own male private spaces.
While I agree that these are crucial areas in which to work, I am highly sceptical that the Deep State will leave us alone to do our natural work. The Deep State already has broken the power of the sovereign states to resist. What state magistrates, after all, beholden to the power of national party officials, will actually call for nullification and give it teeth? And this Deep State, in its arrogance, has shown no signs of stopping. It has continued to intrude deeper and deeper into those parts of life in which the magistrates once respected the natural sovereignty of the family and intervened only in cases of gross injustice.
For homeschooling without fulfilling the Deep State’s requirement, you can be jailed for extremism. For keeping sodomitical ‘marriage’ out of your unregistered religious meeting, you can be jailed for extremism. For keeping your wife from using her freedom to work outwith the home, you can be jailed for extremism. For creating discriminatory male spaces that are at all visible, you can be jailed for extremism. In any divorce, moreover, court settlements can easily – as they already do – favour the party who better serves the system. In my æstimation, Free Northerner has still banked on too much freedom.
There is certainly something passivism gets right: attracting too much attention will get nothing done. But even the Church in Qing China, between 1724 and 1860, was persecuted sporadically. Foreign missionaries were banned, of course, but now and then Christians also had their books and images confiscated, and they themselves after interrogation were compelled to recant their faith. To these things the Church was subjected even when it remained largely quiet and even when most of the magistrates were inclined to turn a blind eye to Christianity in order to avoid causing trouble for themselves. The Church remained resilient in China because it was so much a part of the fabric of social life, though quietly, that the ‘cure’ against Christianity would generally be worse than the ‘disease’. But I can only imagine that the Western magistrates will be more zealous to stamp out hidden institutions that do not teach or at least submit to the Deep State’s propaganda, and that – at least now and then, if not as fiercely as the Japanese – they will deal exemplary punishments to cow both churches and other institutions into submission.
When the Deep State decides to take children away from their parents to make them janissaries for ‘social justice’, it will not deem resistance acceptable, and it will not hesitate where the Qing dynasty magistrates did. Is a passivist then to allow his children to be taken? For the sake of not attracting attention, will he give up his natural duty and not fight because the time has not yet come? I do not know, but I think most believe it justified, right, and necessary then to take up arms against the will of the magistrates, and to call his neighbours to defend their own right and duty by defending his right and duty. But that is the spark of civil war, and I cannot say in what circumstances men will accept that as a duty and actually win.
The hope of winning a civil war against a ruler tyrannical and still feared is not in a few armed men. Against a nuclear power with some of the world’s most sophisticated weapons, a few men with guns cannot win. There are some, I know, who seem to believe that with their Second Amendment guns they can take on a powerful army. But the only hope of victory is if the military and police forces, won over by the justice of the few men’s cause, refuse to impose the wicked will of the Deep State that pays their salaries. If these forces be evenly split in opinion, God knows with what bloodshed the people will win their freedom.
Here I have still præsumed that the men defending their families from tyrants will be armed – and so, it seems, has Free Northerner – but of course even this condition we cannot safely count on. Whether ’tis better to suffer the confiscations of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them – who knows which way gives life? It could be here that men of valour had the practical hope of defence, but here that the wicked and the fearful were too many and too strong. Yet later, disarmed, they would have no news to make, and the people might already have turned too docile.
And all the while, of course, traitors let hordes of invaders into Europe and seek, for votes, to do the same in Americas.
In the Church, we see the likes of Russell Moore, who as head of the Southern Baptist Church’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) plays a leading role in George Soros’s front group Evangelical Immigration Table. This state of affairs does not inspire confidence. I strongly suspect that most evangelicals, in any case, lack the biblical conviction, the habits of character, and the institutional strength to withstand the will of the powers that be. They lack both the will and the ability to fight in their hearts. It is true, of course, that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. But when the struggle touches flesh and blood, decadent Western Christians think they must contend for nothing but their own miserly freedom to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – Lord, that is, of their hearts and little else. Such freedom, they do not see, means no more than the ‘freedom’ in Hong Kong to chose by, yes, universal suffrage a Chief Executive from among two or three candidates approved by the oligarchs; most the people of Hong Kong, despite their other idiocies, can see that such universal suffrage means nothing. The Church that we know is filled with those who do not see the costs. When you point out the costs of certain moral commitments, they may often move the goalposts by judging those commitments ungodly and, though they may not say it, judging you a blasphemer. In the end, all you have in common with them are some theological opinions about the gospel, and perhaps very little agreement about the law of nature.
Realistically, even when things are quiet on the whole, the quiet will be punctuated by dramatic incidents. These incidents even the passivist must expect. He must be ready both to suffer the consequences of such incidents – for he will not always pass unnoticed – and, sometimes, to strike before the general strike and the general collapse. It is not often in one battle, after all, that even a Sunzi wins a war. Even when the battles are few and carefully chosen, they are more than one. Nor even with excellent intelligence does a general avoid all surprises, and yet he is compelled to do his best to win a war with as few fights as he can and as many fights as he must.
The readiness to strike, moreover, generally depends on some habit of actually striking where the iron is hot. There is no martial virtue in a people that has never expected and trained to fight.
It remains to be seen what the Church will fight for when the American Deep State’s directives interfere with daily life around the world, and what the Church, urged on by accommodationists, will surrender by degrees to an aggressive power; it also remains to be seen, as the Deep State attacks the power of the Church as well as the freedom and dignity of the native peoples in the countries it holds, whether Christians around the world will build the institutions to strike when the time is ripe. In any case, the Church must equip its people for psychomachia (the war of the soul), the Inner Crusade, so that the people may have the virtue to take up arms and use them well for the good of the commonwealth when the will of God brings both need and opportunity.
There are many concerns that I must give to God. He alone can grant victory, and he alone holds the cosmos in the palm of his hand.