The haze of summer has not quite obscured my recent essay at Religion Dispatches about the insurrectionist visions of up-and-coming Christian Right leader Eric Metaxas and Fr. C. John McCloskey -- Opus Dei evangelist to the rich and powerful.
Eric Metaxas is consumed with the idea that requiring employers to include contraception in the insurance packages that they offer employees may require conservative Christians to rise up against a Naziesque regime.
“This HHS mandate” situation he said “is so oddly similar to where [anti-Nazi German theologian Dietrich] Bonhoeffer found himself” early in the Nazi era. “If we don’t fight now,” Metaxas warned,He joins conservative Catholic leader, and Opus Dei priest Fr. John McCloskey in encouraging people to imagine a revolutionary future; maybe a revolutionary present.
“if we don’t really use all our bullets now, we will have no fight five years from now. It’ll be over. This it. We’ve got to die on this hill. Most people say, oh no, this isn’t serious enough. Its just this little issue. But it’s the millimeter... its that line that we cross. I’m sorry to say that I see these parallels. I really wish I didn’t.”
[McCloskey's] dystopian manifesto of a decade ago rocked American public life.
The prominent priest’s appearances in major American media at the time included Meet the Press, with Tim Russert. On the show, McCloskey discussed his avatar, Fr. Charles, a future priest, looking back on the history of the Church in the U.S. from the year 2030. The Church had faced persecution, participated in a civil war that broke up the United States—and although the Church now comprised fewer members, the remnant hewed closely to doctrine and had achieved Catholic supremacy in some places. Church membership had also been refreshed by hundreds of thousands of “orthodox” evangelicals who had been co-belligerents in the war.
McCloskey is no militant-but-obscure cleric—he has been a regular in the national media and is credited with the conversion of the rich and powerful, including Newt Gingrich, then-Senator (now governor) Sam Brownback (R-KS), journalists Robert Novak and Lawrence Kudrow, former abortion provider Bernard Nathanson, publisher Alfred Regnery, financier Lewis Lehrman, and Judge Robert Bork. McCloskey also famously accompanied then-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) to Rome for the canonization of Opus Dei founder Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer in 2002.
McCloskey recently published an update of his essay. “I—or perhaps my thesis” he wrote, “received quite a bit of vitriolic criticism from the elite mainstream media and even from the late Tim Russert on Meet the Press. A goodly number of faithful Catholic writers also found it dark and threatening, however, although I had intended it to be positive and optimistic.”These men are not yahoo preachers, and their style is decidedly more William F. Buckley than say, Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage -- but their views are more profoundly subversive than any of these.
“My avatar priest,” he continued, “looked back from the vantage point of 2030 to reflect on recent ‘history’: the story of American Catholics who became confessors and martyrs to the faith as the federal government of the ‘Culture of Death’ persecuted them.”
In his original essay, McCloskey’s avatar, Fr. Charles, explained how “the great battles over the last 30 years over the fundamental issues of the sanctity of marriage, the rights of parents, and the sacredness of human life have been of enormous help in renewing the Church and to some extent, society.”
McCloskey’s literary device allows him to avoid openly seditious language, while suggesting that conservative Catholics and allied evangelicals should prepare for civil war.