One of the most common questions we hear in response to the decline of our culture and to the conflict that has ensued from that erosion is “How can Americans change?” “How do we avoid the ‘veritable civil war’ that might be coming to our country?”
In a recent article at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson gives several answers to these questions: we need to fix immigration issues, reform the university, grow the economy, deal with reactionary racialism, and experience a religious and spiritual awakening. I believe this last point takes priority because it lays the philosophical foundation for all the others.
Typically, when spiritually minded people—particularly those who hold to the Judeo-Christian worldview—discuss religious revival, they focus on the need to revive principles and values having to do with morality, objective truth, and divine authority. Religious and rational elements, not spirituality, are emphasized.
While religion and spirituality should always go together, sometimes we mistakenly separate them. Religion becomes a cold set of rules and other-imposed conformity. Spirituality becomes unhinged from reality. When divided, each creates some of the very problems we are trying to fix—loss of individualism and rampant subjectivism. So it is important to understand both.
I believe most of us understand the nature of religion, principles of morality, and reason, but I don’t think many of us grasp the depth and breadth of spirituality and why it is fundamental to pulling our society back from the brink of destruction and embarking on the many practical solutions we need to right the ship.
A lot of Americans believe in the spiritual realm, but they don’t often see how spirituality is key to relationships—and how society, politics, and culture are all about relationships. Fundamentally, our society is broken because the relationships are broken. Relationships are broken because we have lost the meaning of true spirituality.
Relationships begin with self-knowledge. If you don’t know yourself as God created you to be—not as you or others imagine yourself to be, but as you truly are—you don’t really know anyone else. If a society is filled with people who don’t know themselves, and thereby don’t know others or how they should live in this world, then that society is dysfunctional.
A human being is a spirit—a unique identity, or in the words of Soren Kierkegaard, a “self.” This individual “self” is known not by an objective list of truths, but through understanding how those truths relate to the individual. This isn’t relativism. This is truth known through relations, and that’s a key difference.
Kierkegaard called this subjectivity, but he didn’t mean it as we do today. He wasn’t talking about truth being defined according to each individual. He was talking about the individual, or subject, experientially knowing objective truth—and as spiritual creatures, we can know that truth by relating to other spirits.
Let me put it this way, if a pie is sitting on the table and you never taste the pie, then you won’t essentially know the pie. You are aware of its objective existence, but you don’t know it. That truth is lost to you because you have not experienced it. Your experience doesn’t make the pie real or true—only objective creative reality makes something true (i.e. God)—but your lack of subjective experience keeps you from knowing that truth in a truly meaningful way.
Additionally, by not tasting the pie but only gathering objective information about the pie, you have robbed yourself of knowledge about yourself. You don’t know if you like sweet blueberries and graham cracker crust or whether they’re unsavory to you. Likewise, you won’t be able to share that knowledge and experience with another as you both taste the pie.
This is a very simple analogy to illustrate what it means to be a spirit, to be your true self. The interacting and the knowledge that passes between the object and the subject is a spiritual act. It’s the illumination of who a person has been created to be and is becoming as he gains knowledge of himself through relating to others. The pie doesn’t define the person tasting the pie, but the tasting of the pie reveals truths about the person—to himself and others.
Spirituality, in other words, is essential to self-knowledge (individuality), knowledge of God (objectivity), and knowledge of others (community). Religion is an expression of that spirituality. Knowing who we are in this world and our relation to God and other people is a spiritual exercise because it involves the ethereal passing of knowledge back and forth about truth.
One of the fundamental problems in our society is a lack of knowledge on all three levels and a corruption of that knowledge through inauthenticity and materialism. We simply aren’t relating to one another—not to God, not to ourselves in light of God’s objective truths, and not to others in the same light because we don’t spend authentic, personal time relating to each other face to face. We don’t value relationships as a means to knowledge and becoming the best of who we were made to be.
Because we have rejected objective truth, we have no common basis on which to relate to one another. We’re like ghosts passing one another in the darkness, having no tangible reality to relate and commune with one another. When we do come close, we expect others to abide by our subjective perceptions of truth, and when they don’t, we lash out. We make demands, we become angry, and we look for some greater power to corral all the ghosts into our self-made closet.
We hear a lot about how lonely Americans are, and one of the primary reasons is this lack of spirituality and the relational knowledge based on objective truths that comes with it. When we don’t realize that we are spiritual creatures, and we allow the closed box of nature, other people’s beliefs, the state, social media, or our subjective selves to define us, we are living a lie. We are living alone, and this terrifies us.
We believe boys can be girls, because that’s what a minority group tells us. We believe the government is society itself, because that’s what centralized power creates. We believe we are entitled to other people’s stuff, because we don’t respect the individual. We only respect our own animal appetites.
If we are not gaining true knowledge about ourselves and other people, then something will fill that void—either a fantastical world of entertainment and online interactions with faceless people who pass on their delusions to others or entities with power that impose false propaganda onto us, telling us who we are, what we should do, and how we should live.
We are a country bereft of spirituality. As a result, we live only for the present instead of living with an eye to eternity. We embrace material determinism, believing we’re victims of everything. We don’t see ourselves as unique individuals created by God for a purpose, living under his authority.
If all well know is what the state wants us to know, communicated to us through pop culture and a morally relative educational system, we will become what it has defined us to be. Conflict will ensue as society is broken apart until it is rebuilt through earthly authoritarianism.
Only when we first see ourselves in light of God’s truth, and then authentically form healthy relationships with other people will we flower into the unique individuals we are supposed to be. Only then will we be free, because we will know and be known before God—the source of truth—freeing us from the identities imposed on us by a spiritless, godless society.
This might seem like a complicated way of looking at one aspect of spirituality, but it is important to understand where knowledge of truth comes from and how it shapes our choices in politics and culture. When we understand this, we will experience joy and peace, even as we struggle in a world fraught with despair. We will embark on a journey into ourselves as we discover our unique place in the universe, how there is no else like us, but how we still have so much in common with every other human being on the planet.
To build relationships with other people that are real, authentic, and based on common knowledge of God is satisfying like nothing else. When we have this foundation, we are able to work together to create a better society, full of authenticity, diversity, and freedom.
DC McAllister is a journalist and cultural/political commentator based in Charlotte, NC. Her work can be found at a variety of outlets, including PJ Media, The Federalist, and Real Clear Politics. She has been a guest on Fox News, CNN, BBC, NRATV, NPR, Hannity radio, and BBC radio. She is the author of A Burning and Shining Light and co-author with Dan Bongino of Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump in the 2016 Election, to be released in October 2018.