[The following essay first appeared at the old Liberty’s Torch site on September 22, 2014. Consider it a companion piece to the Everything Put Together essay – FWP]
James Pinkerton has a seven-year-old essay at The American Conservative that I blush to have overlooked before this:
In one of the great epics of Western literature, the hero, confronted by numerous and powerful enemies, temporarily gives in to weakness and self-pity. “I wish,” he sighs, “none of this had happened.” The hero’s wise adviser responds, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” The old man continues, “There are other forces at work in this world … besides the will of evil.” Some events, he adds, are “meant” to be, “And that is an encouraging thought.”
Indeed it is. Perhaps, today, we are meant to live in these times. Perhaps right here, right now, we are meant to be tested. Maybe we are meant to have faith that other forces are at work in this world, that we are meant to rediscover our strength and our survival skills.
And so the question: can we, the people of the West, be brought to failure despite our enormous cultural and spiritual legacy? Three thousand years of history look down upon us: does this generation wish to be remembered for not having had the strength to look danger squarely in the eye? For having failed to harness our latent strength in our own defense?
With apologies to the frankenfood-fearers and polar bear-sentimentalizers, the biggest danger we face is the Clash of Civilizations, especially as we rub against the “bloody borders” of Islam.
Please, please read the whole thing. (If you regard fighting your way to the end of one of my essays is wearying, you’ll find this experience either terminally exhausting or exhilarating.) Pinkerton fearlessly zeroes in on what the Western world lost — in many cases, willingly — when it surrendered the ancient title of Christendom.
For nearly two centuries, America was seen as Olympus come to Earth: the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. For a century it was a nation of heroes, envied by all the other peoples of the world, upon which they automatically called in their darkest hours. That’s an image of ourselves that should rouse all but the terminally comatose from their torpor.
The present generation of Americans may be only half-salvageable. Cravenness is dispelled only under unforeseen trial. Miseducation is harder to overcome than ignorance. The forces that call for surrender to the intolerable, that march under the banner of relativism and accommodation, are mighty. From their perches in academe and the media, they’ve done gruesome damage to the history and self-regard of our nation. But that’s no reason to despair. It’s certainly no reason not to raise our own banners and march.
We must put away venality and rediscover our just pride.
We must proclaim a gospel of responsible individual liberty, and hold strictly to it.
We must demand absolute fidelity to promises from our public officials.
We must purge our laws, our language, and our thoughts of much nonsense that entangles them.
We must cease to grant any respect to the demands of the Fakers and Takers; they must be recognized once more as parasites and objects of charity.
We must learn to discriminate between the unconscious and the conscious followers of Cthulhu and Allah. The former must be either enlightened or neutralized; the latter must be defeated by any means expedient. In no case may they be accommodated.
These are the weapons with which we can defeat Cthulhu, Allah, and the seemingly irresistible tides of demography, and reclaim our heroism.
“Olympus come to Earth” was a long-pondered choice for this Catholic; it was more evocative of the sentiments I wanted to stir than “Heaven come to Earth” would have been. The “gods” of classical mythology weren’t divine in the sense appropriate to a Christian or Jewish believer; they were depicted more like very powerful humans who held themselves to be “above” the laws that govern the rest of us. When they were bad, they were very, very bad; when they were good…well, that wasn’t often.
Brave, principled men who are willing to put “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” on the line for the values they hold dear are Olympian in stature. However, they are Christian in character. That is, they bind themselves to the moral laws enunciated by the greatest Lawgiver that could ever be:
Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 22:37-40]
Now a man came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false witness, honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew, 19:16-19.]
A land that hews straitly and explicitly to those laws may justly call itself Christendom: a land ruled, ultimately, by Christ. A land that sets them aside, whether out of negligence or in search of some other advantage, may not.
There’s been a resurgence of popular interest in the “traditional” Christian sects in recent years, most notably in Catholicism. It’s not large enough to be called anything as dramatic as a movement or a renaissance, but it’s happening. Significant numbers of teens and young adults, blessed by not having received formal religious “instruction,” are discovering the immense value in Christianity, and embracing it as what it is and should always have been: a revelation of joy rather than an indoctrination in dreary renunciations and obligations.
In On Broken Wings, I had Louis Redmond, far and away my most popular character, put it this way:
“What has the typical response to indoctrination been, Father? What percentage of the children that have passed through parochial schools remain communicants as adults? Do we really need any other explanation for why the schools are closing down at such a rate?”
The priest grinned without humor. “Don’t you think the property tax situation might have had something to do with it, Louis? To say nothing of the problems the Church has had with zoning boards all over the country?”
Louis shook his head. “That’s nothing new. The American Church has faced those forces for three centuries. It’s only in the last fifty years that our numbers have diminished this way. And we’re mostly to blame for it.”
He scowled. “It was always a mistake, you know. Religion isn’t for children, and to impose it on them by force has never been to anyone’s greater good. As society has secularized, the resentments over that practice have been free to come out into the open. Is the Church better off for all these claims of the physical and emotional abuse of children by priests and nuns, even if every last one of them were eventually disproved? Are Catholics better off?”
Should the trend continue, the social gains will accumulate over time.
This has its hazards, of course. Far too many priests and ministers are prone to preaching their own preferences rather than the truths set down in the Gospels. Christ’s dictates, as we can see from the citations from the Gospel According to Matthew, are few and simple. His yoke really is easy; His burden really is light. He forbade very few things; all that lies beyond His Commandments is within Man’s free choice, subject only to the constraint that it not be put to use oppressing, defrauding, or wounding others.
Ironically, one of the best evidences is the redoubled fury of militant atheists and other anti-Christian forces, which see their hard-won gains among young Americans slipping from their grip. But those gains stemmed primarily from the antihedonic, hairshirted teachings of so many priests and ministers: the harping on renunciation and self-denial, even unto the point of self-mortification. Glory be to God! If our lives and their potentials are His gifts, how could it possibly be His command that we deny ourselves the pleasures of existence, or refuse to prosper, or make ourselves miserable with privation and pain amidst the innumerable bounties of the world? Does it really take a Certified Galactic Intellect to see this, or have you just been waiting for someone like me to bellow it at you?
As clerics steadily (albeit somewhat grudgingly) replace their hairshirted preachments with the words of the Redeemer and the militant atheists are revealed as the hypocrites they are, Christendom is creeping back. The seven Christian virtues:
- Faith: To hold fast to that which is true despite inability to prove it mathematically;
- Hope: To stand fast upon one’s principles in the belief that deliverance is possible;
- Charity: The active concern for others that springs from sympathetic personal connection;
- Prudence: Sober consideration among alternatives in place of impulsiveness;
- Justice: To defend what is right, and not to demand what is not;
- Temperance: The exercise of restraint in the face of “too much;”
- Fortitude: Courage and perseverance in the face of obstacles and trials.
…are being rediscovered and reinvigorated. And young Americans are finding something two generations of naysayers canted was a fraud and a delusion: the peace of Christ.
An enticing neologism occurred to me a few minutes ago: hypocrats. It’s not a word you’ll find in any dictionary, at least not yet. I would use it to refer to those who would rule you through lies. That’s a population of which there seems no shortage.
Hypocrats in politics are obviously many. Indeed, most professional pols are plainly willing to say or do anything rather than let their prestige, power, or perquisites be taken from them. The man of Christian conscience who enters the political arena soon finds that there is little welcome there for statements of principle: i.e., statements about absolute right and wrong. If his “colleagues” don’t manage to bend him and compel him to compromise, they’re likely to ostracize him or drive him out.
But these are merely the most visible hypocrats. Many “activists” are of similar character. Though a goodly number of allegiants to false causes such as “global warming / climate change / climate disruption” are sincere believers, their leaders are not, as is made evident by the ways they conduct their personal affairs. (Michael Loftus’s exposition captured just below makes a rather pointed point about that.) A “leader” who doesn’t believe in the cause he purports to “lead” is almost always focused on power, wealth, or both.
The third group I have in mind this morning is the cult of relativism. “All is relative,” the relativists ceaselessly proclaim. “No religion / standard / ideology / morality / culture / creed is superior to any other. Each has its own validity.” These, can be detected by their expressed preferences, verbally and behaviorally. What’s most important is their open hostility toward the Christian-Enlightenment standard of absolute right and wrong: the barrier they’ve largely battered down to make room for the dissolute and bloodthirsty alternatives of Cthulhu and Allah.
A standard of any sort is where one makes one’s stand. Relativism is an attempt to seduce Christians away from their stand: the cluster of compelling truths we’ve made our own and should defend to the death. Note how many militant atheists are relativists, and vice-versa. Note how they deride us for our inability to prove the existence of God, when they have no greater capability to disprove it. Note how they insist that Christianity — to be fair, they usually say “religion,” but in practice the only one they ever assail is Christianity — “is valueless,” or “has never done anything for the world,” in blatant contradiction of actual history (which they ceaselessly strain to obscure or rewrite). And note how they preen themselves on being “smarter” than us believers, when their pretensions are without any foundation.
All these persons want to rule you: i.e., to get you to do what they want, as opposed to what you might prefer and what would benefit you personally. And they do it through lies.
Hmm. Maybe hypocrat will find its way into the dictionaries after all.
I’ll give the closing thought to the Pinkerton essay:
We in the West will always need warriors. We must have chevaliers sans peur et sans reproche—“Knights without fear and without reproach”—to safeguard our marches and protect our homes. Men such as Leonidas, whose Immortal 300 held off the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC, long enough for other Greeks to rally and save the nascent West. Or Aetius, the last noble Roman, who defeated Attila the Hun, Scourge of God, at Chalons in AD 451. Or Don Juan of Austria, who led the Holy League to naval victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571. Or Jon Sobieski, whose Polish cavalry rescued Vienna from the Turks in 1683.
These are not just legends, not just fictional characters—they were real. And if we dutifully honor those heroes, as heroic Men of the West and of Christendom, we will be rewarded with more such heroic men.
Future epics await us. Future Knights of the West, ready to defend Christendom, are waiting to be born, waiting for the call of duty. If we bring them forth with faith and wisdom and confidence, then also will come new heroes and new legends.
Maybe it was meant to be. And that is an encouraging thought.
May God bless and keep you all!
Our FSSP Parish in NH, just 5 years old this August, has been growing, FAST, since its opening. Full of families, young folks, & us old cranks. Talking to the young people, you find a common denominator- the desire for true reverent worship & a real definition of right, wrong, & truth- in a world full of misdirection & ‘moral relativism’.
A bright future for Catholicism has again taken root.
Along these lines, young speakers like 9-year-old Novalee and 15-year-old Brad Taylor have shown us that they recognize the inequities of liberalism and are willing to stand up against such intrusions.
Therefore, we must both look with optimism to the future and train our children in the way they should go.
Furthermore, although Brad Taylor did not express it in his speech against CRT, he did note that he would move from the public school system to a Christian school. Therefore, I believe that Brad saw a connection between the freedom that we enjoy as Americans and the freedom in Christ. That is very much in line with your theme of this essay.
I’m a recovering atheist.
I won’t say I’m a believer, but I’m moving in that direction. Every day I come to respect Christianity more and more.
You, Mr. Porretto, are one of the people who have helped move me in this direction.
I thank you for it.