Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.37.17 pm

The option we face in the West is no longer between an ugly terror-driven medieval hell or a technicolor, liberal utopia: Between a Biff Tannen version of Back to the Future‘s Hill Valley in which everything is awful, and the Marty McFly version in which everything ends well. That choice is no longer on the table.

No. What we face in the West is a choice between two kinds of apocalypse; an ugly terrifying one and one, that though beautiful, is merely a facade, a chimera that cannot hold up the weight of our hopes and dreams, and will ultimately disappoint.

I say that advisedly.  I say that as a social conservative who should, if all things were equal, line up with the outrage of news publications such as The Spectator, which I have both written for and for which I pay a weekly subscription.

The unpleasant reality of the apocalyptic “rock and a hard place” was driven home to me as I read an article by the admirable atheist writer, Douglas Murray, in the latest edition of that very periodical.

In speaking of the atrocities of Manchester he stated the obvious:  Why do progressives keep insisting that they have no idea why someone would do something like that?  What drives them?  What fuels their rage?

Murray observes:

The tone of bafflement is strange – like a society that keeps asking a question, but keeps its fingers lodged firmly in its ears whenever it is given the answer….For their part, the Islamists are amazingly clear about what they want and the reasons why they act accordingly.

And along with so many other articles in The Spectator, Murray goes on to point out that the problem lies at the core of Islam and its view of women.  And he excoriates the liberal Left for its refusal to name the problem and to constantly turn it around to be the problem of the West’s own making.

The clear message is that we need to gird our loins, toughen up, name the problem for what it is and do something about it.  There is little time for mealy-mouthed platitudes, much less another bootless round of candles, teddy bears, flowers, and loud speakers blaring The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love in public squares and train stations.

In part I agree with him.  The West, especially the progressive secular West, does not understand the first thing about the apocalyptic motivations of such terrorists, and is in complete denial that it could be anything but sheer madness with neither rhyme nor reason.

Why this blindness? Because secular progressives completely misunderstand religion and the religious.  For secular progressives the role of religion, ultimately, is to provide a platform upon which they can, like so many peacocks, strut their multi-coloured self-righteousness,  in turn despising religion and patronising it .

And the secular conservative?  Well the secular conservative, such as Murray, is a strange beast.  Shocked by the licentiousness of the West in times of calm, he or she airbrushes over the self-destruction assailing our centre-less culture in times of horror. What would have him or her shudder in times of peace, reaching for the pen or the blog post, is  viewed as a vanguard of our strength in times of terror.

Let me explain.  Murray approvingly quotes one of the songs that Ariana Grande was singing the night of the Manchester blast during her Dangerous Woman concert. He says:

Songs such as the hit “Side To Side” were performed: ‘Tonight I’m making deals with the devil/And I know it’s gonna get me in trouble…/Let them hoes know.’

And then he goes on to the rest of his article.

Yet those song lyrics – especially the bit about “hoes” in light of the narrative Islamists have about women, and in light of the demographic make up of the concert crowd, immediately arrested my attention. Couldn’t get past them actually. So much so that after I finished reading the article I googled the lyrics.

So, in the interests of full disclosure, here are the full lyrics to “Side To Side”, originally sung by Grande in a duet with Nicki Minaj, and written by Grande herself. Please read them carefully. I’ll explain a few terms at the end if you don’t understand what they mean. Please decide whether you wish to read them. They are not for the fainthearted:

I’ve been here all night, Ariana
I’ve been here all day, Nicki Minaj
And boy, got me walkin’ side to side let them hoes know

[Verse 1: Ariana Grande]
I’m talkin’ to ya
See you standing over there with your body
Feeling like I wanna rock with your body
And we don’t gotta think ’bout nothin’ (’bout nothin’)
I’m comin’ at ya
Cause I know you got a bad reputation
Doesn’t matter, ’cause you give me temptation
And we don’t gotta think ’bout nothin’ (’bout nothin’)

[Pre-Chorus: Ariana Grande]
These friends keep talkin’ way too much
Say I should give you up
Can’t hear them, no, cause I…

[Chorus: Ariana Grande]
I’ve been here all night
I’ve been here all day
And boy, got me walkin’ side to side
I’ve been here all night
I’ve been here all day
And boy, got me walkin’ side to side (side to side)

[Verse 2: Ariana Grande]
Been tryna hide it
Baby, what’s it gonna hurt if they don’t know?
Makin’ everybody think that we solo
Just as long as you know you got me (you got me)
And boy I got ya

Cause tonight I’m making deals with the devil
And I know it’s gonna get me in trouble
Just as long as you know you got me

[Pre-Chorus: Ariana Grande]
These friends keep talkin’ way too much
Say I should give you up
Can’t hear them, no, cause I…

[Chorus: Ariana Grande]
I’ve been here all night
I’ve been here all day
And boy, got me walkin’ side to side (side to side)
I’ve been here all night (been here all night, baby)
I’ve been here all day (been here all day, baby)
And boy, got me walkin’ side to side (side to side)

[Refrain: Nicki Minaj]
This the new style with the fresh type of flow
Wrist icicle, ride dick, bicycle
Come through yo, get you this type of blow
If you wanna Minaj, I got a tricycle

[Verse 3: Nicki Minaj]
All these bitches’ flows is my mini-me
Body smoking, so they call me Young Nicki Chimney
Rappers in they feelings cause they feelin’ me
Uh, I-I give zero fucks and I got zero chill in me
Kissing me, copped the blue box that say Tiffany
Curry with the shot, just tell ’em to call me Stephanie
Gun pop and I make my gum pop
I’m the queen of rap, young Ariana run pop

[Pre-Chorus: Ariana Grande]
These friends keep talkin’ way too much
Say I should give him up
Can’t hear them, no, cause I…

[Chorus: Ariana Grande]
I’ve been here all night (been here all night, baby)
I’ve been here all day (been here all night, baby)
And boy, got me walkin’ side to side (side to side)
I’ve been here all night (been here all night, baby)
I’ve been here all day (been here all day, baby)
Boy, got me walkin’ side to side (side to side)

[Refrain: Nicki Minaj]
This the new style with the fresh type of flow
Wrist icicle, ride dick bicycle
Come through yo, get you this type of blow
If you wanna Minaj, I got a tricycle

Note the word play on Nicki’s surname in that last line; tricycle – “menage a trois”. Get it?   Oh and a “wrist icicle”, for the uninformed, describes what happens when, after giving someone a hand job, the semen runs down your hand.

And when songs like that were over in Manchester last week; when a concert full of young girls and women who’ve mouthed the lyrics all night long with their idol ended; when parents were waiting out in the foyer for the children to come out; when the doors had opened and excited youngsters had spilled into the foyer, all pussy cat eared and pink ballooned, having had the time of their short lives, the most unspeakable act occurred, sweeping away the beautiful with the ugly in a hot blast of death, destruction and mayhem.

When that happens the very thing that drives the scorn of conservative commentators in times of peace is subsumed by grief and anger at the sheer perversion of blood and bolts and body parts.  The senseless waste of it all.  The brutality that drove our household to tears, and left us second guessing that decision on a gap year in London for our daughter when she finishes school.

Who can fail to be outraged by the sheer evil act? In a blinding instant the ugly apocalypse met the beautiful apocalypse in a dreadful clash of world-views, values and practices. An implacably dangerous man collided with ironically dangerous women and the result has filled our heads with horror.

I read the lyrics to “Side To Side” to my wife later.  We’re not outraged by them. We’re not even shocked anymore.  We just feel a wave of sadness at how hollow we have become; a sense that increasingly we’re faced with a choice between two apocalypses in the post-Christian West; a brutal ugly one in which shocking acts are committed by dangerous men, and a glittering beautiful facade that promises so much and delivers so little. A facade in which sex acts are sung about by dangerous women to pre-pubescent girls. Two stories of the future and neither of them seem all that attractive. And we asked ourselves; Is this the only choice we get?

The story the post-Christian West is trying to sell as a vision of the good life, a story to buy in to (and actually buy), cannot last.  It cannot hold up the weight of the hopes and dreams of an entire culture.  It will collapse. It already is.

It is being chipped away at by its enemies in the form of terror.  And it is undermining its own foundations, pulling away the bricks and mortar of a world-view that enabled it to rise in the first place.  Like Jerusalem when Babylon invaded, all the enemy will have to do eventually is finish off the job and cave in the husk of a hollowed out city.

The story of the sexual revolution, so eulogised by the progressives,  has led us to this beautiful apocalypse in which our kids sing songs about icicles and tricycles. Its destruction has been a fifty year long stop-animation bomb blast; dismantling millions of lives bit by bit, ever so slowly, but ever so surely.  It’s a beautiful apocalypse, interrupted increasingly by an ugly apocalypse with a story of its own.

We need a better story.  In Christ we have a better story.  A better drama to enact as a people, one that is neither fearfully ugly nor falsely beautiful. And it’s going to take the church to gird its own loins and ensure that it lives out that drama in an even more meaningful way in the face of it all.  It’s going to get tougher for sure.  But so are we. The better story lived out well, richly and truthfully, can resist the hatred of the ugly and the allure of the beautiful facade.

Even Murray, atheist though he is, cannot help himself.  He self-describes as a “Christian atheist”.  I guess if you’re not going to have a story then it’s best to know which story you’re not going to have and stick to not having that one.  And openly gay as he is, Murray’s honesty as a cultural commentator means he won’t reinvent the orthodox Christian faith to accommodate himself within it.

I admire a man like that.  Maybe he is not far from the kingdom.  He’s close enough to the true story to almost taste it.  Perhaps one day he, like so many other secular conservative commentators, will come to see that an apocalypse is an apocalypse, whether it’s an ugly one or merely a beautiful facade.  And perhaps they’ll realise that’s not the only choice.  That there is a better story with an apocalypse of its own, a revelation of true beauty that only gets more beautiful the more you look into it, and that one day will sweep all ugliness away.