Restoring the West by Establishing Brotherhood

The Engine of Civilization is Men on a Mission

The Psalmist rejoices (Psalm 133:1), “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Indeed, unified brotherhoods are good and pleasant because meaningful culture and biblical communities are built when brotherhood is established.

The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:13-16, explains that God has equipped the Body of Christ with various giftings for the explicit purpose of building a community that is centered, grounded, and anchored in Christ and His teachings. These gifts exist for the explicit purpose of unifying the Body of Christ through the pure teaching of the Word of God:

“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Unity of faith, knowledge, and maturity produce hearts bursting with love for Christ and His people. These are the sort of people that God then uses to build community. A prime example of this is the Inklings. As Lewis, Tolkien, Barfield, and Williams met together over pints to discuss philosophy and literature, they were drawn together by their shared faith in Christ, and as their brotherhood developed, so too did the community they built. Or think of the friendship of Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson, Adam Smith, and James Boswell, and what that “club” built. Dozens more examples could be cited on our side of the pond as well, groups of men united in purpose that literally built our civilization. 

The restoration of the West depends on the formation of brotherhoods once more.

Imagine What Happens When Brotherhood Dies

In John Lennon’s Imagine, the singer encourages listeners to dream of a world where there is no Heaven, no Hell, no religion, and no God. This is, frankly, a world in which brotherhood and community is impossible. However, in Lennon’s pseudo-intellectual view, the disappearance of these things would establish a world of peace and love.

The reality of such a society, however, produces just the opposite. Without a common faith to draw people together into a shared community, rampant individualism increases in a secularized culture that turns decidedly antagonistic towards the things of God. Without a shared community, civilization degrades and collapses into wonton sin and debauchery as man engages in his most sinfully base desires, believing the mindless self-indulgence he practices to be an innate human right that legitimizes and actualizes his existence.

A god of some sort or another will always rise within such societies. Take North Korea, for example. If you want to see a fleshed-out, real-life example of what happens when people really imagine that there is no Heaven, Hell, religion, or God, then look no further than those poor souls living under the tyranny of Kim Jong Un. Their dictator has become their god, the state has become their idol, and North Korean policies have filled the gaping hole left by the removal of the Holy Bible.

Or simply look to America. The rejection of Christianity has led to the rise of expressive individualism, wherein men and women believe their greatest fulfillments come through an outward expression of whatever they most feel themselves to be in that particular moment. Men pretend to be women, women pretend to be men, and children pretend to be animals, while others naively authenticate their imaginative experiences.

Though much could be said (and has been said) about the issues of expressive individualism, it is often glossed over that the more individualistic tendencies increase, the more civilizations degrade as shared communities go away. As shared communities disintegrate, the social imaginary transforms culture into a hodgepodge of splintered and fractured groups that unite around the most expressive forms of individuality. This creates violent mobs, but can never hope to create unified brotherhoods.

Without a Brotherhood, the West Perishes

The Western tradition is great because tradition itself builds upon a shared community and culture. There’s a common thread that ties tradition together. For the West, this was Christianity. Brotherhoods formed, and then these brothers created culture, these brothers fought for culture, and these brothers died for the good of their culture. But, when the common thread is removed and individualism reigns supreme, brotherhood and communities die, along with their cultures.

Such societies crumble not because of physical fighting, but because of words. When shared communities and cultures crumble, words become the weapons of mobs that usher in the apocalypse. As Carl Trueman pointed out,

“While earlier generations might have seen damage to body or property as the most serious categories of crime, a highly psychologized era will accord increasing importance to words as means of oppression. And this represents a serious challenge to one of the foundations of liberal democracy: freedom of speech. Once harm and oppression are regarded as being primarily psychological categories, freedom of speech then becomes part of the problem, not the solution, because words become potential weapons.”

The West finds itself at this crossroads. Men want to express their individuality, but they have not yet totally given up on being part of a shared community. We may not (yet) have a figurehead like a Kim Jong Un that we can point to as a tyrant, but we do have some tyrannical structures already in place. These petty tyrants know how to construct houses of glass that they can then destroy by hurling words like rocks.

The great trouble is that resistance to such tyranny is rarely ever successful when it’s done by lone wolves. Tyrants know how to twist words and use them against those who resist. Tyrants know how to use mobs to their advantage. Tyranny can only successfully be resisted when communities form and refuse to let their culture die.

What are we to do, then? How do we begin to restore the ash heap of the West and build meaningful, lasting structures that will survive in the battles ahead?

Building Afresh and Anew

Camaraderie and fellowship are essential elements of building genuine Christian community. Of this, there can be little doubt. Building a strong Christian brotherhood is the cure for the degradation of the West.

One of the most compelling examples of this is the story of King Alfred the Great. Alfred was the King of Wessex during a time of Viking raiding and pillaging. In fact, during his life, things turned so bad that basically every Anglo-Saxon King except for Alfred had fallen to the Viking warriors. To make matters worse, a few failed battles, and a Viking surprise attack, led Alfred to become a fugitive hiding in his own kingdom.

Yet, Alfred never quit fighting. As former allies and friends turned against him, hedging their bets instead on peaceful surrenders and treaties with the Viking hoards, Alfred continued to strike against the Vikings with his ragtag band of faithful soldiers.

Eventually, Alfred and his faithful men defeated the Vikings and pushed them out of Wessex. How? In part, it was through the brotherhood he had established with his men. This brotherhood, built upon the Christian culture they had inherited from past generations, provided both the impetus and the strength needed to resist the Vikings.

How did Alfred establish meaningful brotherhood? Through a shared faith in Christ, and through regular times of fellowship and feasting. In his biography of Alfred, Ben Merkle noted that, later in his life,

When Alfred had the leisure to write, he described feasting in the mead hall and the warm fellowship between the ring-giver and his thegns, the deep bond of comitatus, as the closest approximation he could make to life in heaven. This was life in the court of a king as it should be.

Feasting and fellowshipping led the brotherhood to form and fight together. This, ultimately, is what the West needs today.

Making Extraordinary Brotherhood Ordinary Again

Alfred the Great was not the only man to establish a meaningful brotherhood. The great biblical example of this is the fellowship of King David and Jonathan, the son of Saul. This brotherhood led the men to pledge their lives to one another, seeking the best of the other.

The fellowship of the Apostles was similar. Through the Lord’s Supper that Christ instituted before His crucifixion, Jesus established the very means of strengthening the brotherhood of the disciples through regular intervals of celebratory feasting and fellowshipping at the Table. When the time came for these men to give their own lives in service to Christ and His Kingdom, they did so willingly and faithfully.

The problem is that the West has failed to pass on this great tradition of camaraderie, fellowship, and brotherhood centered around Christ. It has become rather extraordinary to hear of genuine Christian brotherhoods forming.

Solving the dilemma is not as challenging as it may seem at first glance, though. In fact, the solution is clearly seen in Nehemiah 8:9-11:

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Breaking this text down makes the essential elements of forming brotherhood straight forward.

  • 1.     Brotherhood must be centered around Christianity; i.e., the Word of God and the Law of God must form the basis of the community’s worldview.
  • 2.     Brotherhood is formed when men gather to feast and celebrate. The greatest celebratory feast is the Lord’s Supper, but feasts and celebrations must become regular liturgical elements in the life of the community.
  • 3.     Brotherhood depends on the giving and sharing of gifts. Those who do not have must be given to, and those who have must freely give. King Alfred was known as a Ring-Giver because of the many gifts he gave to his friends in the mead halls. We must, likewise, become known for our generous gift giving and love for the community.
  • 4.     Brotherhoods strengthen as they depend on the Lord. In other words, not only must the community form its worldview through the Word of God, but it must also determine that it will exist for the glory of God and by the grace of God. Men must learn to become warriors of prayer, praying especially for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done (Matt. 6:10).
  • 5.     Brotherhoods also strengthen as they rejoice in the Lord. This means that the brotherhoods we develop will only ever be as strong as our worship. A brotherhood formed around negativity, blame shifting, and victim mentalities will always fail and fall by mere words because it’s really only a mob. But brotherhoods formed through regularly rejoicing in Christ, and centered around worshiping the King of kings, will stand against all tyrannical oppressors that come against it.

The brotherhood being described here may sound extraordinary, but it must become ordinary. So, men must become hospitable and loving. We must be Gift-Givers, sharing freely of our own lives and riches with those around us. We must be those who regularly feast together and regularly worship Christ together. We must be brothers who are willing to stand in battle against the tyrannical forces of the day, trusting in the sufficiency of God’s grace to keep us standing indomitable and bold.

Making brotherhood ordinary again can be as simple as inviting men over to the home, sharing a meal, and singing Psalms. It may be done in a public setting, as well. It may feel awkward or strange at first, but it is decidedly normal and part of the great tradition of Western culture. And, if we want to recover the West, we need to reform brotherhood.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Jacob Tanner

Jacob Tanner is the pastor of Christ Keystone Church in Middleburg, Pennsylvania, and principal of Juniata Christian School. He is married to his wife, Kayla, and is the father of two boys. His latest book is The Tinker’s Progress: The Life & Times of John Bunyan (Christian Focus, 2024). He is the host of Doctrine to Dominion as part of Eschatology Matters which can be found on X @eschatology22

4 thoughts on “Restoring the West by Establishing Brotherhood

  1. Was wondering if there was a brotherhood in the community of faith during the times of the Apostles. If we say ‘yes,’ then what of the debauchery that existed then. If we say ‘no,’ are we contradicting the Scriptures?

    It appears to me that there is a mixed context for brotherhood here. It appears that the brotherhood referred to is the brotherhood of believers but the community referred to is society. So how is the brotherhood of believers linked to the community of society?

    Of course, the article is about the West. But it appears that the West was not as ideal and monolithic as the article appears to make it out to be. There were inquisitions, religious wars, and even world wars where both opponents were said to be acting in the name of God. Of course that doesn’t include the imperialism and colonialism, belief in white supremacy, subjugation of women among other social injustices under which atrocities occurred. In early America, people were expelled, persecuted, or even martyred for belonging to another denomination. Also, Christians were divided over issues of white supremacy, slavery, and Jim Crow. And though that hostility no longer exists between the denominations here, it did during much of the heyday of Western Civ in America. So what did the brotherhood and West do?

    Finally, what seems to be the continued theme in many of the articles posted here is a finalized and static definition of the West. That the West the West changes, it is no longer the West. And so it seems that some have concluded that the West can only be defined by past demographics.

    1. Perhaps you could learn more about true brotherhood if you would stop whining and complaining like a nagging woman.

      1. Duke,
        Isn’t this whole website the embodiment of what you just said about me? After all, it constantly complains and whines about the lack of Christian control over society and the state. And so it claims that Christian Nationalism is the solution.

        What I am simply pointing out is that the solution proposed by this website is borne more out of authoritarian tendencies than from the Scriptures, especially from the New Testament.

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