Two sublime aphorisms:
Alfred went on to add that Christian charity is now entirely misunderstood, as a kind of collective effort to improve the world.
We are not asked to undo the work of creation or to rectify the Fall. The duty of a Christian is not to leave this world a better place. His duty is to leave this world a better man.
… [H]e had some harsh words to say concerning the modern approach to education, as an ‘education for life’; such cliches awaken the old recusant instinct, which tells him that people might be entirely mistaken, especially in those beliefs that they take to be self-evident. ‘True education,’ he retorted, ‘is not for life, but for death.’
More from Scruton-via-Dreher:
He opens by relating a sense of being a vandal in visiting churches as an unbeliever, as many tourists are:
Of course, they don’t steal the works of art, nor do they carry away the bones of the local martyr. Their thieving is of the spiritual kind. They take the fruit of pious giving, and empty it of religious sense. This theft of other people’s holiness creates more damage than physical violence. For it compels a community to see itself from outside, as an object of anthropological curiosity. Those holy icons that returned the believer’s gaze from a more heavenly region are suddenly demoted to the level of human inventions. Those once silent, God-filled spaces now sound with sacrilegious chatter, and what had been a place or recuperation, the interface between a community and its God, is translated to the realm of aesthetic values, so as to become unique, irreplaceable, and functionless. The tool that guaranteed a community’s lastingness, becomes a useless symbol of the everlasting.
Scruton then relates his role in an actual minor theft from a country church (of crystal cruets), and how it haunted him for years afterward. The real theft, though, was sacramental — his failed marriage to a Catholic woman, which broke him spiritually. He writes of his lesson as a spiritual thief: “Stay away from holiness, was the lesson. Stay away until you are sure it possesses you.”
More than any of Scruton’s political philosophy, Gentle Regrets is now on my wish list, though I suspect I’ll buy it sooner rather than wait (notwithstanding my long list of unread books).
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