As a Christian and a father I not infrequently find myself faced with a certain moral dilemma. Specifically, my income is pretty good and I’m in the position of deciding what to do with it.
Of course, there is no end of uses for money. Our family is growing and we need a bigger, better home. The sort we want in our area will run us about $6k/month in rent, or $1.2m to buy. The public education system is less ‘broken’ than it is actively ruinous (but both), so private schooling and tutoring considerations apply. There’s retirement planning in the face of an increasingly cartoon economy.
My parish, naturally, wants tithes. They want a whole ten percent! Off the top! And in fairness, if my dollar was the one to determine whether it thrived or failed, that would be the best investment I could make. Our community is amazing and the only place I’d want to raise my children. We run a thrift store (like Goodwill) that is an absolute lifesaver for many of the area’s poor. Also, we practice almsgiving, which is acts of charity above and beyond tithing, if not always monetary.
But many other mouths cry out to be fed as well, from crook-smiled politicians who nonetheless are important to support over the other guy to NGOs trying to staunch an arterial rupture of human tragedy with the equivalent of band-aids for want of bigger budgets.
And life’s finer things are to be considered as well. I like good art, soundly-crafted furniture, stylish clothing (important for my job too), high-quality ingredients for cooking, and the occasional getaway to see family, friends, or just interesting places. The kids want enrichment also, and while I’m not going to call this demand a pit, it certainly is bottomless. Too, there is the notion of self-care; that it’s important to expend enough resources on my own well-being that I continue to be able to generate the income.
Only, as all of these are valued in dollars, they directly trade off against each other. And in the way of autists, I can’t help but grope my way down the thing toward the root of the problem. It has taken me to some pretty intense places.
~All human societies hold in common an understanding that it is a father’s duty to protect and provide for his children. This is enshrined in law, culture, and everywhere else. Of course a father would do anything to save his child — rob, murder, cheat, lie, or give up his own life without hesitation. To do otherwise would be reprehensible.
This principle is not without its exceptions. Men in office, for example, are expected to set aside their familial obligations when acting in their official capacity (And, actually, one could find far worse yardsticks of a people’s worth than their ability to hold to this standard consistently). If a soldier on the front lines receives word of a family emergency, efforts are often made to excuse him to attend to it, but where this conflicts with operational considerations he is expected to stay put, and failure to do so is generally agreed to be worthy of capital enforcement, even if our hearts are understandably with him.
I have heard a saying along the following lines attributed to the Bedouin of the deep desert:
Me and my tribe against the world
Me and my clan against the tribe
Me and my cousins against the clan
Me and my brother against our cousins
Me against my brother
If my daughter and the neighbor-kid are both starving I am expected to feed my own and let the other die. So with my nieces and nephews over my second-cousins’ kids, all the way up the enumerated hierarchy. This is understood. This is a human universal. Most, I expect, would agree that this is the very foundation of morality, though as we will see I am not so sure.
Where exceptions come in it is because a man has taken upon himself the role of father to a greater family than that of his immediate. We honor enormously the Patriarch who puts the good of the clan above his own children. We remember with fierce admiration the Emperor who adopts a competent successor as his son while consigning his own degenerate offspring to some idle pleasure dome in the countryside. We exalt the young man who gives his own life in the trenches while his pregnant wife waits for him anxiously back home. We depend upon such men. We call them heroes. This, too, is moral. It is perhaps even a higher sort of morality.
A messiah is one who brings such benefit to his People at the grandest scales. A typical Christian narrative on the subject goes something like: The Jews were conquered by one hostile nation and then another, denied their own homeland, constantly at risk of enslavement and extermination, and were able to survive all of this by virtue of their hope in a coming promised messiah. They had many specific expectations of what he would be like, too. He would bloodily uproot the foreigners, bring the earth under his dominion, and elevate his own race to lordship, never to be so threatened again. When Jesus came to Jerusalem the people laid down palm fronds that he (or his mount(s)) might tread upon these instead of the dirt. They were elated. They knew exactly what was coming, and they were ready as only centuries of bitter anticipation can make a people. And then the State executed him in their ugliest fashion and he didn’t even attempt to resist. Even the disciples, whom Christ had tried to prepare for this over and over again, understood that all was lost and that Jesus was not the messiah. Messiahs do not lose. They conquer.
Let me shift gears now and talk about Hitler. There is no figure more reviled in our culture. He serves as our icon of utmost evil; of the worst aspects of human nature. To publicly question this in the slightest is to run a very real risk of losing everything and, in many Western countries, even runs up against laws that will land one in a jail cell.
Yes, I realize that I’m committing an unspeakable breach of social etiquette by asking. Yes, I know that many of us, even here, have an uncontrollable disgust reflex on the topic. Even those who are more or less comfortable with discussing differences in average racial IQs or impulse control, or personality trait variances between men and women.
The usual answer for someone in such circles is, “Because such discourse is controlled by the Jews, etc., yada yada yada” and while there is certainly something to this it is, at least at this resolution, entirely beside the point I’m trying to make. So please bear with me — that is not where I’m taking you.
One day a few months ago I, in the way of autists, asked myself what exactly was so unusual about Hitler that he should occupy the mythological position that he does. One can of course enumerate a long list of terrible atrocities for which he was responsible. Only, as I went through them, I couldn’t help but notice that not only were they all basically par for the course for the Father, the would-be messiah of a people, but that worse examples of each can be found (both quantitatively and almost always qualitatively) in the biographies of other leaders — including, not to put too fine a point on this, those seen often enough on t-shirts in public without ruffling anyone’s feathers particularly.
So, finding myself at a loss, I escalated the question to some trusted friends, and discovered that while it was extremely upsetting to most of them, none even attempted to answer, but rather clucked at me while shaking their heads in horrified exasperation. These are people, you understand, whose capacity for decoupled analysis I generally respect very greatly. Disconcerting, to say the least. Can’t you pick as a mascot, one said, someone other than the craziest and most evil man in history?
Only, I cannot fathom how anyone sees this when they look at Hitler. Here was a man who sincerely held the best interests of his People in his heart. He came of age in a time when his nation was — historical aggression notwithstanding — brutally, horrifically, oppressed. Countless of his countrymen, women and children, starved to death needlessly under spiteful, vindictive post-war Allied blockades. The economy was so saddled with reparation debt that rebuilding would take generations if it were ever possible at all. The people had no hope. Men and women who wanted families faced down a seemingly-insurmountable challenge in doing so. The risk of watching their babies die of starvation was all too real. And what chance had those children of decent lives even if they did survive to adulthood? They would end up de facto slaves, servants to the sneering foreigners who now controlled everything.
Germany’s culture — within living memory arguably the pinnacle of human achievement — was brought low, rapidly to be replaced with this new post-war thrust which we can now recognize as the antecedent to the sort of moral and cultural disintegration with which we are today so familiar.
And this man! This man was nobody. He was a failed art student. But he decided that he was not going to let that happen. He was going to save his people or die trying. Yes, in pursuit of this goal he engaged in some of the most reprehensible methods imaginable. But in what sense was he not playing the highest, most honorable role for his people — that of a messiah? Was the alternative really any more moral? Are we clutching our pearls and sobbing because it was mean to kill political opponents when what he should have done was to suffer the children of his nation to starve to death in the streets while foreigners feasted in the beautiful homes built by his forefathers? Can we really suppose for one moment that the Jewish zealots of AD 66 would have had any problem with Hitlerian tactics were the shoe on the other foot and being executed by Eleazar ben Simon against the Romans? Yes, Hitler was a mess and riddled with countless inexcusable flaws, but are we truly to believe that he did what he did simply because he enjoyed causing others pain? The man was a vegetarian for goodness’ sake!
Now contrast this with Stalin (or Lenin). How explicit do I need to be here? Whether they acted more out of lust for power or a sincere ideological commitment to, idk, ‘the working class’ (imo doubtful), these guys did not act out of love for their people, and did not hesitate to consign millions of them to starvation in pursuit of power.
And they killed so many more. So many more. But our politicians can admire them openly and the common man has only the haziest idea of why this might be a problem. And while, sure, the opposition will attempt to make much hay of this, the younger generations increasingly seem uninterested in what they have to say about it.
Last night a friend told me,
my opinion is that you've been brainpoisoned into calling evil good and good evil and rather than leaning into the caricatures of your enemies by using the word 'hitlerism' to refer to good things you should not do that
(Not that I was — it’s precisely the distinction that I’m trying to draw, but we’ll get to that.)
So on the subject of ‘my enemies’, let me tell you a few things I notice about them.
They get abortions
They permanently sterilize themselves, or
They take pills to trick their bodies into thinking they've just lost a baby because this spiritual distress is preferable to them over the prospect of actually reproducing.
They purchase chihuahuas, and pekinese, and felines, and portage them around in equipment intended for human children which will never exist
They agonize over the irresponsibility of their own kind having children, but gasp in horror at anyone who suggests that African birthrates might become a problem
They desire to privilege children of other races above their own, ceding educational access, preferential employment, etc.
They get nervous at portrayals of healthy white families with several children
They will loudly insist that they do not have a culture
They really don’t like borders and seem to think that it’s their responsibility to feed and clothe the world
This list could be ten times as long, of course. You get the idea. So to circle back around to my original point —
My enemies do not feed their own children first. My enemies sell their children at the market and immediately donate the proceeds to the worst, most irredeemably valueless people they can find. And if they can’t find one close enough to hand, they go looking. And it’s disgusting. It’s reprehensible. It offends me to a degree that I have difficulty conveying without jumping up and down and screaming until I’m red in the face and collapsing into a pile of tears. Only, I seem to remember Jesus telling us to do what my enemies are doing — or it’s at least close enough that I can’t help but notice.
Which brings us back to my daughter. As her father, where does my responsibility to her end? At what point should I give a dollar to feed notional children on the other side of the world rather than investing it in her future? How stiff will her competition be? How can I know in advance which investment will turn out to make all the difference?
Consider the following scenario. I am walking down the street and notice my neighbor’s two year old breaking free from her front door and running into traffic. Of course if I can safely rescue her I should, but suppose I’m not sure that I can without endangering my own life in the process, and leaving my children fatherless? I could maybe look her parents in the eye afterward and say “There just wasn’t anything I could do” and they’d likely catch the nuance and understand and even bitterly sympathize.
But supposing I had plenty of time to save the child, and just choose not to because this would mean I don't have time to read my daughter a bedtime story. Is that equivalent to murder? I say yes. Trying to delineate between the two is an unseemly thing for a man to do and belies a womanly discomfort with agency. But when I spend a few extra bucks to get her the pink scooter someone, somewhere, is going hungry, and in aggregate dying.
Or imagine that I’m the chieftain of one of two small tribes on a small island. Resources are getting scarce and everyone knows that at some point soon it’s going to be us or them. Does a good leader, a good father, wait for the threat to ripen, for the enemy to choose the place and time for battle? Or does he strike preemptively? It will be either our children or theirs who die. We will eat their babies or they will eat ours. Shouldn’t a father make sure of which it is? Isn’t that what a good father does?
The reason our society is so reflexively disgusted by Hitler is because we have mostly internalized the notion that our children should die that others might live, and the man with the tiny moustache represents the polar opposite of that.
Hitler seems to me, at heart, a very good father. If I emulated him, I should not hesitate to feed my own child first, even upon the corpses of my neighbors’ children. I should lie and cheat and steal and murder in game-theoretically optimal ways to bestow upon my children as many resources as possible, that they should not themselves end up in chains or on the dinner plate. The notorious Fourteen Words — “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” — make the connection so explicit and unassailable that the Left dares not to look upon it.
But the icon-stand in my heart labeled “Father” does not have Hitler’s portrait in it. Actually the picture there is blank, ha ha, but that’s another story, and the point is that Christ fills in pretty well. My Father does not feed His own child first. He feeds His child to us. Bit by blood-soaked bit, forever. I can struggle with the apparent discrepancy between disinheriting my daughter to feed what looks to me like a total waste of the Imago Dei, but there it is. I am certain that the difference between my girl, whom I can assure you I adore unbearably and who always seems to have a beam of sunshine on her in my eyes — that the difference between her and the most contemptible human being ever to exist, is as nothing compared to the difference between God’s son and my daughter, or myself.
But the gorge does rise in my throat when I consider failing to protect what seems, to me, the most beautiful person, and the most beautiful People, ever to exist in favor of… that. Every cell in my body says that I should sooner glass an entire foreign continent rather than allow harm to befall one hair upon my daughter’s perfect golden head.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
And we can’t even expect the problem to go away. The least of these will always be among us. He said so. Maybe the only clean way out of this is to not have children in the first place. I’m afraid He might have said that too.
I try to console myself with precedent. I try to believe. We have established two types of morality: A baseline morality of feeding one’s own children first, and a higher morality of sacrificing one’s children for the greater good of the People. But Christ would seem to indicate a third sort, which is to love the foreigner's child more than one’s own. This is, after all, what God did.
And for a minute there humans actually did it too! As Scott says,
The early Christian Church had the slogan “resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39), and indeed, their idea of Burning The Fucking System To The Ground was to go unprotestingly to martyrdom while publicly forgiving their executioners. They were up against the Roman Empire, possibly the most effective military machine in history, ruled by some of the cruelest men who have ever lived. [...] this should have been the biggest smackdown in the entire history of smackdowns.
And it kind of was. Just not the way most people expected.
Food for thought, I guess.
So it seems to me that if I'm to be a Christian, this directly implies feeding my child to the dogs. And if I'm to do otherwise, this fully generalizes to Hitler. Either way I had better get serious about whatever it is I'm doing here.
Long story short, I’m currently trying to decide between this apron and this one for my daughter for when she’s painting at her easel. The first is a little bit cheaper, but she’ll like the second one better because it has unicorns. Hoping someone can offer some insight here.