This week, Dr. Carol Swain joins High Noon with Inez Stepman. Dr. Swain has a long train of degrees, from (most recently) a Master of Legal Studies from Yale Law, a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master’s in Political Science from Virginia Tech, a BA in criminal justice from Roanoke College, and an associate degree from Virginia Western Community College. Swain taught as a tenured professor at Princeton and Vanderbilt, from where she retired in 2017. She was the co-chairwoman for President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission as a response to the 1619 Project, and has also been the recipient of numerous honors of positions in and out of government commissions. She’s the author of, most recently, Black Eye for America: How Critical Race Theory is Burning Down the House, along with Countercultural Living, a book for Christians living in what is perhaps now a post-Christian America.
Swain and Stepman discuss the current state of the American body politic, as well as the fate of a bastardized academia and whether wokeness is filling the spot previously occupied by Protestant Christianity.
High Noon is an intellectual download featuring conversations that make possible a free society. The podcast features interesting thinkers from all parts of the political spectrum to discuss the most controversial subjects of the day in a way that hopes to advance our common American future. Hosted by Inez Stepman of Independent Women’s Forum.
Welcome to High Noon, where we talk about controversial subjects with interesting people, and today our interesting person is Dr. Carol Swain. Dr. Swain has a long train of degrees. Working backwards from her most recent, she has a Master of Legal Studies from Yale Law. She has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a master’s in poly sci from Virginia Tech, a BA in criminal justice from Roanoke College, an associate’s degree from Virginia Western Community College.
She has taught as a tenured professor at Princeton and Vanderbilt, from where she retired in 2017. She was also the co-chairwoman for President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission, which was instituted as a response to the 1619 Project from The New York Times, along with she is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, in positions in and out of government commissions, and she is a prolific author, most recently of Black Eye For America: How Critical Race Theory is Burning Down The House, along with a second book, Counter-Cultural Living, which is a book for Christians living in what perhaps could now be termed a post-Christian America, although I will ask Carol whether she thinks that that is an apt description or not in the course of our discussion, I’m sure.
But, Carol, it’s a great pleasure to have you here on High Noon.
Dr. Carol Swain:
Well, thank you so much.
Before we delve into your work, your published work, could I ask you just a little bit about your life and how you ended up getting these five degrees and writing a series of academic and popular books, working on the 1776 Commission, sort of how did you end up doing all those things in your life?
Dr. Carol Swain:
You know, it’s interesting. I don’t know how anyone ends up where they do, but it was certainly not planned. Not really. I was one of 12 children, second from the oldest, number two. Born and raised in rural poverty, southwestern Virginia. Spent the earliest part of my life in a two-room shack without indoor plumbing. We were so poor, we didn’t even have an outhouse. There are a lot of people of my age that were born and raised in the country, and maybe they didn’t have indoor plumbing, but they always had an outhouse.
I dropped out of school after completing the eighth grade. I married at age 16. By the time I was 21, I had three small children. And I ended up getting divorced, earning a high school equivalency, going to a community college, and getting the first of five degrees. My first degree was in business. I thought I would be a store manager, managing a store at the mall.
I applied for jobs. I was told that I needed a four-year degree, made a decision that I was going to be an honors student and that I was going to get that four-year degree — and the reason I wanted to be an honors student was I wanted something to put on the applications that would distinguish myself — checked out books from the library. I purchased books on how to make As in college, how to take exams, how to study.
I graduated magna cum laude while working full-time, 40 hours a week, nights and weekends at the community college library, going to school during the day, and it was a perfect job for someone like me that had children. When I had to bring them to work, I could. I could sit them at a table and give them a book and have them work with me while I was doing my job.
And then, when I was graduating with the four-year degree with honors and I had distinguished myself at that college, I realized that I didn’t want a criminal justice career. I thought I would get a master’s degree and work for the government, but while I was getting that master’s degree, my professors discovered me, and they urged me to get a Ph.D. I was not interested, been terribly shy all of my life. In fact, I was not delivered of the shyness until I was in my forties. But this coincided with the recession of the 1980s, and even though I was an honors student, I was distinguished, people in my community knew me, I could not get a job doing the things I wanted to do.
So I applied to graduate school, and then I ended up at University of North Carolina and distinguished myself as a student. I was giving conference papers across the country. I had my own shortlist of schools. When I entered the job market, I had multiple offers and signing bonuses, and Princeton persuaded me to start my career there — I was there about a decade — and then Vanderbilt hired me, promoted me to full professorship, and I was there for another 18 years. So that’s my story.
I so wanted to ask you, given that you have…. Education has obviously been this huge force in your life in terms of shaping the American Dream and getting you where you wanted to go. How do you feel about the state of America in higher education today? Because if you look at, for example, recent polls, you can see that there’s basically a nosedive off a cliff in the number of Americans who say that the university system is a net positive as a whole and that they trust the university system. This used to be a point of agreement between Republicans and Democrats and independents. Everybody across the American political spectrum thought that the American university system was a great asset to the country.
What you find in the last, let’s say, four or five or six years is that both Republicans and independents, that trust has fallen off the map. It’s completely gone way, way below 50% to the point where even very high support from Democrats cannot keep the university trust level above water, above 50%.
You know, I guess how do you feel about the university system as a whole and what it provides to the country as an asset or detriment? And then, second, if you think it can be reformed into an asset, if you think that it’s not, or if you think we kind of need to cut our losses as a country and we need to, for example, look at a lot of alternatives to a university as a function of exactly what it did for you, right, just this pipeline in certain terms of moving Americans, upwardly mobile Americans, you know, into the middle class and into even academic life. Do you think that we need an alternative to do that or do you think we can reform the university system as it is?
Dr. Carol Swain:
You’ve asked me a lot of questions, and I’ll try to remember them all.
Dr. Carol Swain:
It saddens me what universities have become because I would argue that, when I started college, that they were more or less marketplaces of ideas. With the community college, you get a different kind of student, and so we were there to equip ourselves to get jobs, for the most part, and it was only later that I decided to pursue the four-year degree.
But during that era, when I started school, the big push was for equal opportunity and non-discrimination. There were the black student unions, and I guess now you call them affinity groups. So there were affinity groups on campus back then, but that was just part of the landscape. I never joined the black student union because I was too busy studying and raising my family. I just didn’t have the extra time. That was a decision that I made.
I watched the decline of the university system, but for the most part, I thought the experience was positive. When I was in graduate school, there were some conservative professors, and I myself was a Democrat for most of my life. Even in academia. You know, I supported affirmative action, and affirmative action was basically equal opportunity and non-discrimination. It wasn’t what we have today where we have with diversity, equity, and inclusion and CRT, where they’re pushing for equal outcomes, and not equal opportunity, and where they are saying to be inclusive, you have to have affinity groups rather than everyone coming together.
For the most part, my educational experience at five universities was positive. I was supported by my professors — and most of my professors were Caucasian men — who encouraged me, who challenged me, and who helped equip me for the success that I had later.
I guess what made it easier for them is that I was interested in being successful. And so I didn’t mind working hard and so I had mentors, and they advised me, and whatever they told me to do that would help make me successful, I did what my advisors advised.
Then the early part of my career was very positive. My first book won three national prizes. It’s been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court. I distinguished myself. But I went through a period of depression within academia. Some of it was personal, but I became disillusioned early on after tenure by the things that I was seeing, by some of the hypocrisy, but it was nothing like what universities became.
I saw, after the election of President Obama, the acceleration of the political correctness, the speech codes, the safe spaces, the trigger warnings, the microaggression, and then eventually, the pronoun, pick your personal pronoun movement, and all of that began to happen later in the 2000s.
And I ended up taking early retirement in 2017, and when I left academia, I left because it was no longer a marketplace of ideas. It was not welcoming to people like me. And I felt that I could have a greater impact talking to the rest of the world.
Can universities be salvaged? I hope so. And I think that the students and the parents, they’re really the consumers, that they have more say than they’re exercising, and I believe that all it will take is one powerful university, an Ivy League university to say, and actually mean it, that they stand for free speech, that we’re going to have viewpoint diversity. When one university that’s respected takes a stance, everyone else will follow suit.
You know, it is really leaving a void, I think, both in terms of individuals who are trying to work their way up, in a way, from perhaps humble upbringings like you did. It’s also a huge deficit when the universities like this are shaping our elite.
Dr. Carol Swain:
They’re putting people into the highest positions of power. I was recently… mentioned on this podcast, the cancellation of Ilya Shapiro at Georgetown. The students who are yelling about this, they’re going to work at the DOJ very shortly.
Dr. Carol Swain:
I know. I know. You know something that’s really scary, too, is corporate America. Like, when I was in graduate school, I took my business courses. It was all about corporations being focused on profits. It wasn’t politics. And now you have these kids that were so afraid of a microaggression while they were in college and they needed safe spaces and affinity groups and to be coddled, they have gone into the workplace and created the same kind of environment at major corporations.
During the time that the university system was encouraging this, a lot of us laughed because we thought that when those students graduated, that they were going to go out into the real world and get jobs and find out that that’s not how the real world operates. Well, the joke was on us, because they actually got hired, went out into the “real world,” and they created the university campus all over again.
Yeah. I think so many of us feel like we never left the campus now because so many of the institutions are staffed by people who have the same ideology. I mean, do you think that it’s very dangerous for the country to have smushed together these two…. One is sort of a route — absent politics — is a route to power, success, elite positions, and the other is now an ideological pipeline, and they seem to have become one and the same, which, you noted that corporations have also gone down this ideological path. I mean, what is the endpoint, if we keep those two pipelines of essentially elite power and ideology synonymous for the next 10 years?
Dr. Carol Swain:
I think it’ll be the end of America, and it disturbs me a lot that we go to the Ivy League for our Supreme Court justices, for the most part — there are some exceptions — and whether they call themselves liberals or conservatives, they are trained in such a way that I think they’re usually very dangerous at the end of the day because they’re so elitist; they assume that they know so much more than the common man or woman, they know more than the framers, and they cannot be trusted to uphold the Constitution. They’re not about protecting our rights. They’re about imposing their will on the people.
And so we often thought that the Supreme Court, surely the Supreme Court will render justice, surely the Supreme Court will follow the Constitution. Well, no more. I think that the end goal, unless we can turn things around, is the destruction of our country. I scarcely recognize America.
You know, over the years, I’ve had a negative perspective on people who were anti-American because I love my country. Now I feel like maybe I’m anti-America, maybe I’m anti-America now because there’s so much that’s taking place in our country that’s evil, that’s wrong, that runs contrary to my understanding of the Constitution, that I have to criticize the country that I love because I don’t recognize it.
And I feel that, unless we can turn things around, we will become more like a totalitarian society, our leaders will become more authoritarian, and we will lose all of our rights, all of the things that distinguish America from the other countries of the world. It seems that America wants to blend in with the rest of the world in a way that’s detrimental to our interests.
Yeah. I’ve had the same kind of internal struggle. I’ve always been a great patriot and a great appreciator…. My parents come from another country; they immigrated here. I have always had an enormous appreciation for the systems of this country as being so different from what I would say is the norm all over the world, which has been much shorter on rights, on freedoms, and much longer on lack of opportunity, corruption, and true tyranny and oppression.
I’ve had the same struggle with myself. I feel these sort of Chomsky-ite feelings rising up in myself as I think about the fact that this ideology has taken over so many important institutions in America, that it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish the United States as a country from these ideologies because they populate every elite institution.
I mean, the thing that holds me back, of course, is that they really don’t represent the country, as you know [crosstalk 00:17:05].
Dr. Carol Swain:
No. They don’t.
But they do represent the people who have, overwhelmingly, have access to the levers of power in the country. That’s a difficult thing for, I think, a conservative and a patriot to wrap our minds around, right, because it does run…. I grew up having contempt for Chomsky, for example, for so clearly hating his country. I always asked why does he stay here? I know it’s a simplistic argument, love it or leave it, but in his case, he really seemed to hate so deeply all the things that made America America. I genuinely wanted to ask him, like, why do you stay?
But now I feel like those same kind of impulses, perhaps, in some cases justified, in others, not, maybe just this emotional feeling of losing the country that you know and love.
Dr. Carol Swain:
Well, what bothers me is that we have a whole political party of people that seem to hate our country. The ones that don’t are not willing to stand up and defend our country. And people are operating out of fear because, if they were not operating out of fear, I do believe that they would stand up and say no; they would draw the line.
Yeah. One of the things I’ve hit again over and over on this podcast is the percentage of Americans who now self-censor their views. One of the most potent things that people are afraid of, right, when they do engage with contemporary political debates, is the fear of being called a bigot and, most particularly, a racist, and America does truly have this Achilles heel of race and I think that’s part of the reason — whatever you want to call it — wokeness has been so successful, is shifting from the relatively unfertile ground in terms of economic inequality, where Americans, as a national character, seem much less open to the argument that things are economically rigged or economically unfair than they are legitimately to arguments that things are racially unfair.
You’ve worked on this issue from a variety of perspectives, but one of the things I found most interesting is you’ve really presaged concern about, essentially, a racial politics not being contained, that there isn’t really a long-term way to have a racial politics for blacks who are explicitly advancing what they are calling black interests and then not to create a corresponding racial politics among whites or among other racial groups.
You’ve been at the lead of warning about this, and you’ve done a series of interviews and work on white nationalism in America. I mean, are you concerned…. I guess I’m sure you are, but are you more concerned now, even then when you wrote this…. I think you wrote that you did those studies and those interviews already at least a decade and a half or two decades ago. I mean, where has white nationalism in America — not what’s labeled white nationalism in the press, which is everything — but real white nationalism, where has that gone? And are you concerned about it more or less than two decades ago?
Dr. Carol Swain:
First, what I’m concerned about…. And I talked about this some in the book, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration, is that our country is becoming more and more racially diverse. In fact, whites are a minority in many parts of the country, and by 2047, they’ll be a minority everywhere. Already with generation Z, the white children in generation Z are a minority among their age group. And so that’s where we are.
What I have found is that the approaches that we are taking now are very divisive, and there’s nothing that’s taken place that I see at the national level that will bring people together and bring about racial reconciliation. And at a time when we should be treating everyone as equal under the law and practicing non-discrimination, we are creating a divisiveness with the DEI training, the CRT training, that makes all white people as oppressors, regardless of where they come from. They can come from Appalachia and parents never finished the third grade, living in some hollow, generations of poverty — they’re considered privileged above someone that may be the offspring of a black professional or a black billionaire. All black people are considered victims.
And I think it’s very dangerous to keep pushing that argument that didn’t make sense when I was in graduate school — it still doesn’t — that only white people can be racist. Anyone can be racist, from any group. The racism is just as dangerous, and what’s taking place today in our classrooms and in our workplaces is a discrimination that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with its 1972 extensions and the equal protection clause of the constitution.
We need to stand up and fight back against all of this because, at the end of the day, we’re destroying our country. As far as white nationalism, there’s not a lot of real white nationalism or white supremacy taking place. When I wrote my book, The New White Nationalism in America, I bet you there weren’t 2000 Klansmen in the whole country. There were a lot of people concerned about discrimination against themselves, white people concerned about discrimination, white people feeling that racial preferences were unfair.
What the left has done is that they didn’t have enough hate crimes that were legitimate, they did not have enough real true white supremacism, white nationalists. They have redefined it so that all white people are white supremacists, all white people can be called white nationalists.
With hate crimes, nine out of 10 times, every time you read about a high-profile hate crime in the news, involving a racial and ethnic minority or a member of the LGBT community, you can bet your bottom dollar that a week or two later, it’ll be in fine print somewhere, but the person who reported the crime was actually the perpetrator. That what we have is hate crime hoaxes because there are not enough real hate crimes taking place.
And even when it comes to the police shootings and all the attention that they have gotten and the move to defund the police, I can tell you that the number of actual shootings of unarmed people, black people in particular, that that’s down, and I’ve seen research that a minority police officer is more likely to fire that gun than a white police officer.
And so we’re not dealing with racism or anything of the level that took place pre-civil rights era.
You know, it seems like there’s a lack of appreciation for the difficulty of the project that America has really put forward, right? This country really is a polyglot, right? There really are people from many, many different peoples in America, with different ethnic background, different religious background, different cultural background, and sometimes I feel like there’s a lack of appreciation for how difficult that project is, that it has brought us, actually, enormous strengths in some way, and not in the cheap way that it’s used — this diversity is our strength kind of thing — but it really has allowed us to assimilate strengths from all over the world, but it relied so heavily on us having something in common.
Dr. Carol Swain:
That we could point to as Americans and having an American identity first. I mean, you say you look at the national policy and you don’t see anything that is going to pull us together. I will admit to being frequently pessimistic. I mean, what would, let’s say, forgetting for a moment about what is happening on the national level or on the state level…. I mean, what do you think we really need in order to restore something that we do have in common as Americans? Because it seems to me that, if you drop that, we really don’t have that much in common with each other.
What does somebody whose family came from Mexico have in common with people whose family came from the Middle East or people who have done 10 generations in American Appalachia? There really isn’t a lot in common if we drop that. What do you think would be…. Let’s lay aside what’s possible in terms of what politicians would do but what’s possible, I guess, in the imaginative sense?
Dr. Carol Swain:
Well, you know, when you talk with people, there’s usually an app for that, but I can tell you that I have a book for that, and that is the book that I published in 2011, Be The People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise. And In that book, I talked about the dangerous direction our country was headed in. I warned about the unhealthy alliance between the NSA and Google because I saw that that would lead to problems. And even back then, 2009, 2010, when I was working on the book, we were moving towards things that seemed very Orwellian.
My book concludes that we need that shared background that comes from knowing our founding documents. I think that every American, or every person who wants to be an American, they need to read the Declaration of Independence. They need to read the Constitution. They need to understand the Bill of Rights.
And I would also say the 10 Commandments and that we do…. In America, what distinguished us from other countries is that we have had, in the past, a strong Judeo-Christian background, and whether people were religious conservatives or cultural conservatives, they had a shared background, a shared ideology, and I think that that’s the only thing that could bring us together. And what we find now is that all of these “well educated” young people that are running the big tech companies, these people…. I don’t know if they ever read the Constitution or they read it taught by someone that disdained America, so that they have no respect for our free speech. It’s the Herbert Marcuse Marxist approach to shutting down language that you disagree with.
These people have no appreciation for America’s distinctiveness in the world and just how successful we are. They want globalism because they want everyone equally poor, except themselves. They’re the ones that are pushing things that relate to population control. They would be very happy to see fewer people that are ordinary in the environment because they think that they’re better than everyone else.
And so I think that they’re very dangerous people. They don’t have values to restrain them, and that’s part of the problem. If you want to solve the problem, you go back to our Judeo-Christian values and principles, you go back to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence. You begin to cherish the Bill of Rights, and you go back to the 10 Commandments and some of those Biblical principles that have influenced the laws in America throughout our history.
That’s actually where I wanted to go next with this conversation. I wanted to ask you if my premise in introducing you, you think, is true or false and, either way, what it means for our future together? Because, you know, one of the things that has tied Americans together over the years is, as you say…. I mean, I think it’s actually, as an agnostic person of Jewish background here, I think it’s honestly a little bit overly generous to call it Judeo-Christian, although, of course, there is a serious overlap between the peoples of the book. America was a Protestant Christian nation [crosstalk 00:30:07].
Dr. Carol Swain:
I’m going to stop you. I want to stop you [crosstalk 00:30:10] agnostic. I used to be an agnostic too, and I used to believe kind of like…. I don’t know about your agnosticism, but mine was more like one God, many paths. I thought all religions had something positive to offer.
And when it comes to people that I know that have a Jewish background that are atheists, I have difficulty understanding that because, the very existence of the Jewish people and how they have been targeted throughout history, it screams and it speaks to the existence of a god. And the Christian Bible would not be possible without the Jewish background, the Old Testament.
As a Christian who is Bible-believing, I cannot live my faith and live my life without the appreciation of the Jewish people and their heritage, and I just wish more Jewish people felt the same way. So it saddens me, too, when I run into people that are Jewish, who are atheists. And then with agnostics, I’ll say — you’re young. I was in my forties when I became a devout believer, but I was always spiritual, and when I look at my rise from poverty and the things that happened for me…. When I was at Princeton, I got to know the famous sociologist Robert K. Merton, and he helped me to get money for The New White Nationalism. I mean, it’s just…. I don’t know where I want to go with this conversation, but if I look at my life, God always put people in my path that had exactly what I needed when I needed it, and when He brought me out of academia because — the heat got me out of academia, in a way — I made the decision, but it was because there was something bigger and larger for me, and so everything I’ve seen about life is that we’re on this journey, we’re on this path, God knows our name, He knows every hair on our heads, He knows what’s gon’ happen, He knows that we’re going to be having this conversation today.
The solution for America is not going to come from electing Republicans or more conservatives, it’s going to be a part of God’s plan, and where our America is on the timeline, I don’t know. I don’t know if America will survive. I know that God judges nations, and He certainly judged Israel many times and He used Israel’s enemies to punish Israel at times, and America is poised for judgment. We’ve done…. In many ways, we’ve become the most evil of the evil because we have abused our power and our privileges and we’ve encouraged other nations to engage in behaviors that were just totally immoral and unacceptable, and I don’t think that we will be left blameless. And at this moment, we’re talking about Putin and Russia and how evil Russia is, I don’t think the U.S. can point many fingers because this is a country that during this “coronavirus pandemic,” that our government officials and the big tech, that they did not allow people to share life-saving information about therapeutics that work.
Now we’re learning all the stuff about the vaccines and how harmful they were and just various things that were hidden from the American people, but there were simple, cheap therapeutics that could have saved millions of lives, and I believe that people knew it and they did not care.
Now off my soapbox.
Yeah. I probably just agree with almost everything that you just listed. I think that that’s part of…. One thing that I very strongly do believe and agree with you on is the fact that we have shut down information, that we have a sort of private system of censorship, which makes us very different from the Soviet Union in many ways. It’s just a totally different kind of tyranny when you have private actors coordinating to stop speech, for example, than when you have a top-down government censorship —
Dr. Carol Swain:
Well wait a minute. We have the American government providing subsidies to media, and to the tech companies, many of them are getting grants from the government. They are responsible in the U.S. for the shutdown of information. And what I mentioned about the therapeutics, I mean, this stuff is coming out. It’s documented.
When President Trump mentioned about the hydroxychloroquine and how it could save lives, now the FDA approves using it. How many peoples’ lives could have been saved if they could have used that? And then with ivermectin, how they said that’s just a horse medicine, even though there’s a scientist that got the Nobel Prize for the human use of it, and now people are acknowledging, “Okay, well, that saves lives too,” and there’s a nasal spray called Xlear that applied to the FDA for a patent because it kills…. Their formula kills the bacteria that causes coronavirus in the nose.
So they were not granted their approval by the FDA, but then there have been studies since then that shows that, yes, it does kill the virus. You know, this simple nasal spray that people use.
The fact that our government, at a time when people were losing their lives, that they shut out totally the scientists and the doctors and all of these people that were saying, “No, there’s a better way, there’s a different way….” In fact, some doctors were threatened with losing their licenses if they actually prescribed their patients medicines that they knew would save their lives.
You know, I have studied this stuff very carefully, and I am very worried about America, and I think that America stands poised for God’s judgment, and I’m sorry for taking the interview in a different direction.
Dr. Carol Swain:
[crosstalk 00:36:52] soapbox.
That’s fine. I mean, this is part of the…. I do think that…. What I was going to say about the private companies is that, actually, what we are seeing is a wholly different form of censorship, of conversations like this. I’m not a scientific expert, although the people that I do trust, even personally, in the medical field, have not been enthusiastic about some of these therapeutics, just on the basis that they didn’t see them work in their own practice, but I do think that we’ve —
Dr. Carol Swain:
They have been discredited…. I mean, you need to go back to some of these people and also just look at what is coming out now about the therapeutics and how the information was suppressed.
The second part is certainly true, as in that the conversation was suppressed around a lot of these. I think one of the interesting…. Whether it’s because this isn’t a natural virus or because it is and just happens to have these features, I don’t know, but one of the interesting things about this pandemic — and I’m, again, not a medical expert — has been how differently people react, both to the virus itself and to various treatments.
So like, even some of the approved treatments, people react wildly, wildly differently, in a way that, say, they don’t to the flu. Maybe that’s because we’ve lived with the flu for such a long time that our responses have gotten more homogenized over time as people are exposed multiple times, but one of the interesting things to me about this has been how wildly different people react. In seemingly…. I guess it’s not a surprise, for example, that people who are older react differently than people who are younger, but even within each age span, there’s wildly different responses to this, and perhaps it’s just because we haven’t been exposed to it over time.
I do want to circle back to the question of the role of Christianity in America. What got us on this track was talking about whether or not such a thing as Judeo-Christian sort of foundation…. I think it does exist, but I think it’s often used as sort of a cheap political cover, in a way, of including Judaism in America’s founding, although there were Jews, and they were very…. They were involved, and there are actually founders or, at least, secondary-tier founders who are Jews at the time, and America has always been a haven in a way and doesn’t have, for example, the history that most European countries have with Judaism. But I do think it’s fair to say…. It’s almost like an early version of PC that we wanted to include, it was sort of this nice impulse that Americans have to try to include as many people as possible in the foundations, but I do think that it’s fair to call America a Protestant Christian nation at its founding, which is not to say that it was the popular word today, integralist, right? There was a separation, not as harsh as we have today, but I think that it’s fair to call America a Protest Christian nation, and I guess I wonder if you think it’s fair to call it a post-Christian nation today.
Dr. Carol Swain:
Okay. Let me say that those Puritans and pilgrims that wanted America to be the new Israel, they came here to take advantage of the covenant that God had with the Jewish people, so even those Christians, they were Christians, but they wanted to be the new Israel. So we can agree on that, right?
I don’t actually know what you’re referring to.
Dr. Carol Swain:
I’m just talking historically. I don’t know what the different branches are. I’m just speaking historically that Protestant Christianity was by far the dominant religion in America, although it was split into different sects.
Dr. Carol Swain:
Right. Right. Okay. Yeah. You can say that America’s…. Many of the founders were Christians, but among the Puritans, they wanted to set up a new Israel. They wanted a covenant with God, similar to the covenant He had with the Jewish people.
But the laws of America, even the Sunday blue laws and all of these things that were adopted, by the colonies and…. When I was growing up in Virginia in the ’60s, we had Sunday blue laws. Everything was closed on Sunday, you couldn’t buy alcohol, all of those things. That was influenced by the whole Bible, the Old Testament, and I think the Jewish connection comes from the Old Testament and how you don’t have Christianity without Judaism.
And then you asked me about post-Christian America. I think it’s post-Christian in the sense that the people that are trying to cancel our way of life have certainly targeted western civilization and Christianity as a part of western civilization, and so it is targeted in a way that other religions are not.
A few years ago, it was noted in Tennessee, and also other parts of the country where you have large Muslim populations, that the school systems have accommodated their need to pray several times a day whereas the Supreme Court has ruled no prayer in school. My position would be everyone prays or no one prays, but make a decision. Either everyone prays or no one prays.
But Christianity has been targeted in a way that other religions have not. And also, conservative Jewish people are targeted in the same way because anyone that stands up for traditional values, morals, families, they’re going to be targeted.
Yeah. Recently, for example, there was a poll that came out, these long-term Pew surveys on religion that showed that, for the first time in America’s history, the majority, 51% of people, are not certain about the existence of God.
That is kind of what I mean by post-Christian…. I’m by no means saying this is a good thing. My question would be do you think that America can hold together these disparate groups without…. Because it seems to me that Protestant Christianity was actually something that was shared among a vast majority of Americans of all different cultural/racial backgrounds, but most of them were Christian. Then for a while, that was on decline.
But still, there was, I think even into the ’60s…. I remember reading…. Gosh, and I’m going to show how not up I am on American religious history here, but there were two pastors, one was Falwell but the other one…. Billy Graham, right. Sorry. This is not my wheelhouse of knowledge, but I remember reading Billy Graham’s sermons when he passed. They republished them in his honor. And it was so clear to me that when he was writing, even…. He was writing to a nation that had a foundation of Christianity, that he thought had…. He was kind of calling people back to a foundation of Christianity. He was speaking to people on the basis that he knew that they were Christians, and perhaps nominally Christians, but they weren’t living their values or they weren’t going to church or they were living in a contradictory way to their faith, and so he was drawing on that common knowledge and background and faith as a way of trying to guide people’s behavior.
It struck me that that sermon couldn’t really be popular in America today because I don’t know that there are enough people who have that foundation or that knowledge at all, that it would make sense to them as a call home. What do you think about that?
Dr. Carol Swain:
Well I mean, if I say Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, He’s the only way, then some people could say that’s hate speech. When it comes to the surveys that say that fewer people believe in God, well, there are a lot of Jewish people that I know believe in God. There are a lot of Muslim people that I know believe in God, Christian people believe in God, and the people that say that they don’t believe in God, they’re worshiping some kind of deity, even if it’s themselves, that they’re still worshiping some type of god image of themselves.
But Christianity itself, I think that is the religion that is being targeted now, and so the answer to the question, are we a post-Christian society, I would say, yes, and that’s why we have to engage in counter-cultural living. For Christians, we’re living in ancient Babylon, the way Jews were, back in the Old Testament.
And so I don’t think you can understand American society or what is taking place in the world with world politics unless you’re familiar with the Bible. The Bible, it’s not a science book, it’s not a history book. The people that have studied it have just really been amazed and astonished by the prophecies and how they track what’s taking place in our society, even today.
My book Be The People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise has a chapter on America’s religious roots, where I do acknowledge that the Constitution itself, it doesn’t mention God. It was signed in the year of our Lord but it was drafted by people who were deeply religious, and they cared enough about religion that they didn’t really want to mingle it that much with politics.
I would argue that the framers, when they drafted the Constitution, they were not trying to divorce people’s religious beliefs and their faith from what they did in public life. They were trying to prevent America from having a national church or a state church, and that separation of church and state had to do with not having one denomination of being the official denomination of the country. They did not want to go through what had taken place in England.
Yeah. America had a soft, I mean, a soft version, so even after the Declaration and even after the Constitution, the First Amendment only applied to the feds, so, of course, there were establishments in most of the northern states and then those only ended when it became clear that, in fact, it wasn’t going to be one denomination.
So there was a kind of natural disinclination and disestablishment in America exactly because it was, even within the bounds of Protestant Christianity, was somewhat polyglot. It had a lot of different Congregationalists and Unitarians, who are much more serious than they are today, but had different denominations, and when it became clear that the money was going to start shifting from one denomination to another, even those states disestablished their state churches.
But I guess my question is, all the way through when Billy Graham was writing this, there has been this Christian heritage in America, and it seems to me that, if we were to have another Great Awakening today —
Dr. Carol Swain:
I think that we do.
That it would have to…. Let’s wrap up on this question: Do you think there’s anything in common between the way that wokeness has, as John McWhorter observed, become something close to a religion, especially among America’s elites? Do you think that that is connected to the absence of Christianity, or the receding of Christianity, as America’s religion of choice, if not of establishment? And then, do you think that it is kind of a type of Great Awakening, and do you think that there’s any undoing this sort of woke great awakening, or perhaps maybe undoing it by a Christian Great Awakening?
Dr. Carol Swain:
When I published Be The People, 78% of Americans identified as Christian, and that was 2009. And so, you know, between 2009 and now, you have these changes that you’re talking about, and McWhorter and other people have pointed out that CRT operates very much like a religion because it involves confession, repentance, redemption, but to get to redemption, you have to continually confess as a white person that you are racist. You never get out of that, because they argue that racism is permanent.
And so I think it will collapse on its own because it’s empty, it’s divisive, it makes people uncomfortable, and one reason why people go along with it is that they’re fearful of speaking the truth because they don’t know how they will be harmed if they speak up and say, “I don’t agree with this. This is wrong.”
The Christian religion, and the Jewish religion as well, teaches that man was made in God’s image and so we all have this spark of divinity, and so if you believe that human beings are in God’s image and that we’re all brothers and sisters, how you treat other people would be quite different from if you are an atheist and you believe, you know, that we have no purpose, no rhyme, that we are the products of evolution and all…. I mean, if you have nothing that’s anchored in any type of moral basis, I think that leads to an emptiness, and I believe that the wokeness, some of the things that they’re teaching in schools, that’s why we have so many suicides among young people. Can you imagine these little kids being told that they can change their gender and they may not be really little girls and little boys? Just how confusing that would be to them and how harmful it would be?
I think wokeness will destroy itself. I would like to see a real awakening where we go back to our traditional values and principles and we respect the family once again. Churches are a mixed bag. Some of them have been taken over by social justice warriors, and they’re not offering real solutions. Some are, some aren’t. But we need to remember who we are, where we have come from. Otherwise, we will be in the dustbins of history.
Well, I completely agree that we need a solution to the Houellebecqian crisis of meaning in the West. I don’t know what that solution is going to be yet, and perhaps the solution will be worse than the disease, depending on what it is, but I hope it will be, as you say, a return to more traditional sources of American and Western ideas, and I guess we can end on that note, but thank you so much, Dr. Carol Swain, for joining me on High Noon, and thank you for even the discussion that we’re not allowed to have. We’ll see if this gets banned from YouTube, right? Just for merely having this discussion. So we’ll find out, but it was a great pleasure to have you on. Thank you for giving us your time today.
Dr. Carol Swain:
Thank you, and just don’t tag the part that’s politically incorrect and you’ll be fine.
That’s America today. So thank you to our listeners. High Noon with Inez Stepman is a production of the Independent Women’s Forum. As always, you can send comments and questions to [email protected] Please help us out by hitting the subscribe button and leaving us a comment or review on Apple Podcasts, Acast, Google Play, YouTube, or IWF.org. Be brave, and we’ll see you next time on High Noon.