- How angels fly
- The most fundamental aspect of our human existence
- After a judgment day
- Prioritizing the psychological and the subjective
- “Lord have mercy!”
- CFR Howls
We are … in the midst of a Chesterton revival. The reasons for this are manifold but much is due to Chesterton’s enduring relevance. Chesterton analyzed the problems that plague modernity with a wit and wisdom which is charming and disarming, using the power of paradox and combining clarity with charity in a way that is difficult to resist. His greatest strength, me judice, is the way in which he always insists on the inextricable marriage of faith and reason and uses this marriage to counter the errors of modernism. After reading Chesterton we are inoculated from the poison of modernism and will never again confuse the Heilige Geist with the Zeitgeist, the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of the Age.
(Joseph Pearce, Chesterton: Man for All Seasons) I do hope the questions were posed, answers given, in writing. I’d feel really insignificant if I thought Joseph Pearce could toss off an answer like that extemporaneously.
Or like this:
Always at the fore, however, is Chesterton’s realism, in the philosophical sense of the word. He is always at war with nominalism and relativism, and always a defendant of the rational essence of reality. It is his absolute insistence, at all times, on the inextricable bond that exists between fides et ratio which makes him such a powerful force for good. There is also the connection between humor and humility, encapsulated in the wonderful lines in Orthodoxy about angels flying because they take themselves lightly (humility) whereas the Devil falls because he takes himself too seriously (pride). It is this animus between levitas and gravitas that animates Chesterton’s work.
Do read Pearce’s acknowledgement of Chesterton’s pervasive mistakes about “the common man.” They have particular valence in this year when the GOP Establishment was handed its head by the common men of America.
This same contractual/legal model also underlies the modern language of “personal relationship with Christ.” This language has no standing or origin within the Tradition. Rather, it is wholly the construct of the false consciousness of the modern world. Modern Christians say, “I have a personal relationship with Christ,” and exalt this above all else. It often means nothing more than a psychological construction, itself understood in contractual/legal terms. But the life of the Church as given us by Christ Himself has a very different understanding.
Christ says, “Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him.” This is rooted and grounded in flesh and blood. We are spiritually and organically related and united to Christ. “Spiritual,” “Spiritually,” and their cognates are words that I refuse to give up, but they should be relieved of their psychological/contractual/legal meanings and restored to the more concrete world of biology/substance/concrete …
Biology is easily the most fundamental aspect of our human existence. We do not “have” bodies – we “are” bodies. The fictional reality of contractual/legal thinking alienates people from the very ground of their humanity. Life becomes an ersatz conglomeration of ideas and abstractions, while the body abides with its ceaseless demands (reality is like that). We live as though the truth of our existence transcends our bodies – even seeking to deny the body’s demands in death. A local mega-Church in my area has now forbidden the presence of the body at funerals in the Church. The service, a “Celebration of Life,” can maintain the happy fiction of our abstracted reality much more easily if the embarrassment of a dead body can be avoided.
A true and faithful practice of the Christian faith should be grounded in the body and in the givenness of life. Biology is not our enemy nor is it something to be overcome. It is the vehicle of our existence. Our hope of the resurrection is not something lived apart from the body, but sees the biological raised and transformed to the dignity of eternity.
In my adult life, I have never witnessed such a randomly violent spring and summer as we have had this year: priests murdered while saying Mass; Turkish troops surrounding U.S. military bases; police being executed while on duty; police reacting to stresses (too often poorly) beyond the imagination of most of us; trucks driving through celebratory crowds; demagogues undermining republics; and on and on and on …
I’ve tried my best to consider the events of the past six months as an Irving Babbitt, a Christopher Dawson, a Willa Cather, or a Russell Kirk might do. And, I’ve remembered that T.S. Eliot had thought that we’d entered a dark age sometime around 1898 and that Whittaker Chambers had dated the beginning of modernity with the assassination of Tsar Alexander in the early 1880s. I’ve also thought much about G.K. Chesterton’s “Ballad of the White Horse” in which he claims:
For the end of the world was long ago
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.
More than once during this dread year of 2016, I’ve wondered if Chesterton got it right. All of those hairy, hoary, horrid televangelists talking on and on about “meeting Jesus in the Sky” and “being left behind”—always seeing history as a progressive moment by moment by moment event, never understanding the depths of time or the well of eternity.
From the standpoint of eternity, after all, all time is present ….
Writing of hate crime charges in the U.K.:
In the prosecution of these “crimes,” evidence and even the alleged perpetrator’s intent are now discounted, while the victim’s perception takes center stage and is privileged over any other consideration. Of course, O’Neill and O’Sullivan are speaking of events in the United Kingdom, but the underlying political culture they describe is ubiquitous.
Conservatives and old-style (i.e. true) liberals will no doubt see this development as yet more left-wing lunacy. But before we start decrying it as one more triumph for the lobby groups, we should reflect on the affinities between this development and the less politically contentious phenomenon of victim impact statements—something many conservatives welcomed as giving victims a voice. Here, the victims of crime, or (in the case of murder) close relatives or friends of the victim, are allowed to speak to the court during the penalty phase of a trial about how the actions of the defendant have adversely affected them.
But what if someone with no friends or relatives is murdered, a person whose death impacts no one else—say, a homeless man or an elderly single woman with no relatives? Is that crime somehow less evil than the murder of a man with a wife and children? Is that life worth less in the eyes of the law? So it would appear, for otherwise these impact statements would be of no significance at all.
So what do victim impact statements and the concept of hate crime have in common? They both point to an evaluation of the moral significance of criminal acts, and of victimhood, that prioritizes the psychological and the subjective. Those on the Right who welcome victim impact statements as enhancing victims’ rights might want to pause before excoriating those on the Left who favor the rise and expansion of hate crime legislation. These are two aspects of the same tendency to psychologize and subjectivize crime and the law.
The Orthodox repetitions of “Lord have Mercy” sound like self-loathing until you get this:
There is a common misconception concerning the word “mercy”, used throughout the liturgical services of the Church, as well as our private prayers, and the Jesus Prayer. It is a given that we are all sinners, but the asking for God’s mercy is not limited to asking His forgiveness, or begging God to overlook our sinfulness. When we pray forty Lord have mercies, we are recognizing that everything proceeds out of God’s mercy. The air we breath, the health we enjoy, the food on our table, the water in our tap, the friendships we treasure, our family, and everything good, flows out upon us through God’s mercy.
Lord Jesus Christ have mercy.
With love in Christ,
In this horrible, terrible, not-so-good quadrennium, I cannot commend Pat Buchanan as a reliable guide, but I think he nails this:
“Isolationists must not prevail in this new debate over foreign policy,” warns Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “The consequences of a lasting American retreat from the world would be dire.”
To make his case against the “Isolationist Temptation,” Haass creates a caricature, a cartoon, of America First patriots, then thunders that we cannot become “a giant gated community.”
Understandably, Haass is upset. For the CFR has lost the country.
Why? It colluded in the blunders that have bled and near bankrupted America and that cost this country its unrivaled global preeminence at the end of the Cold War.
No, it was not “isolationists” who failed America. None came near to power. The guilty parties are the CFR crowd and their neocon collaborators, and liberal interventionists who set off to play empire after the Cold War and create a New World Order with themselves as Masters of the Universe.
If I thought Donald Trump (who seemed to be on his medications finally — until he wasn’t any more) actually had the kind of fixed, principled foreign policy that people like Haass call “isolationist,” I would consider that a vanishingly rare reason to consider, maybe — in extremis, voting for him.
If you choke on Buchanan’s comments about Russia, Ukraine, Crimea and NATO, hang in there for his comments on Syria.
Or you can find something to misrepresent, get huffy, and refuse to read the rest. It’s your call.
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)