Civilization and its Discontents

Blaming the Victims
Christians in ancient Rome went to their deaths to avoid burning a pinch of incense before a statue of Caesar or the other deities worshiped in the Roman State.  A friend of mine, who is ordained in a “mainline” protestant body, said he didn’t think that would be an issue now: it’s only a pinch of incense, after all, and we know – St Paul taught – the Roman deities were not deities at all. It was a worthless exercise that would have been as meaningless to us as to them: they knew that Caesar was not a divine immortal! I called bullshit on my friend: burning a pinch of incense to Caesar was saying the Roman lie was true: the state could tell us what was religion.  Christians believed that “God is the Lord and has revealed himself to us.” Truth himself is our spouse. Why would we even pretend to play with Roman lies?
It is a commonplace to say that terrorists are attacking Western Civilization. A List of Rights has been paraded about, sometimes as an answer to “Why do they hate us?” Some Honorable Personage has said “We will stand through this and freedom will spread further and further!” And there has been many cheers and tears. It will be followed, with all due speed – indeed has already been followed – by propaganda insisting that an attack on Western Civilization is an attack on Christianity.  This will be spread by Christians, as well as by politicians, and in some cases, by the terrorists as well!
It shouldn’t take much digging to realize that, short of a bomb in a Church (and sometimes not even then) no attack in any major Western City is an attack on Christianity at all.  This is because nearly no one in the West lives in what would have been called in ages past, Christendom.  Even those nations like in the British Commonwealth (with state churches or former state churches) or “Wholly Catholic Ireland”, Austria or Spain which even today enjoy the reputation of “Catholic” cultures are not. The Scandinavian cultures are not Lutheran. Even the city of Rome outside of the Vatican state, is not Roman Catholic.  In all these places it is the religion of the Enlightenment, the credo of Charlie Hebdo, of the New York Times, the Fox network, MGM, the credo of the entire modern Western world that has taken over: secularism.
Dante, I think we can agree, was an Artist.  Certainly there was some humor in his work and not a few moments of literary revenge, but, on the whole, his Divine Comedy is a very artistic rendering of Mediæval Roman Catholic teaching.  I’d go so far as to say it is a masterpiece, in the classic sense of a greatest work of his career as well as one of the greatest of all time.  In that masterpiece Dante depicts Mohammed in hell, his front splayed open like a spatchcocked chicken, because of how his false teachings had divided the world.  It is, perhaps, fair to say that no secular College Professor today would let Dante graduate with a term paper like that:  It might offend someone.  But to Dante, Mohammed wasn’t teaching a new religion: since he made false statements about Jesus and the Blessed Virgin (among other things), Mohammed was teaching heresy, pure and simple.  He’s the original Protestant, a thousand years before Luther.
I am unaware of any Muslim attempt to stop the teaching of Dante.
In our society, we don’t critique Mohammed’s religion (or any other religion) because it’s wrong.  Religion is denied this honor. We make fun of religion because it is religion. In this culture we are forbidden to engage with religion at all on its own terms. We cannot publicly acknowledge the truth claims of any religion or the conflicting truth claims of competing religions. As a French editor said on the BBC, “We cannot criticize religious believers, only religions.” That is what we all do.  Our gov’ts tell us that we cannot use our religion to make choices in public space. Our coworkers tell us we cannot be religious at our desks. Our neighbors complain when our religious observances are injected into the public space.  A religious minority is protected as a minority until it becomes religious. Ask the Mormons how they managed to get statehood for Utah.
This is what comes of a radical, secularist agenda running amok.  Fundamentalism and Fascism are the results of Secularism.  They are not two ends of the spectrum: they are in effect the same thing.  They are both the result of the fear generated by the lack of norms, morality, and God in a secular world.  This is what happens in a secular society.  We are forbidden to engage Mohammed  his own terms, so we have to treat it with a feigned polite seriousness or else make fun of it.  The same is true of Christianity which enjoys no media attention except to make fun of it, or to misstate its historic tenants based on an American invention crafted whole cloth less than 200 years ago – or some combination of the two.
Terror attacks are attacks on Western Civilization.  But Muslim attacks in Europe are not attacks on Christianity.  They are attacks on a secular fascism running all the religions out of town and trying to name its own gods. 
When France bans the wearing of of veils in public, or English workers cannot wear crosses to work; when the Native American religion is forbidden its Sacraments or American workers cannot say “Merry Christmas” in business transactions, we are crossing a line together.  It’s not the war of Muslims against Christians we’re fighting.  All religions are the victims of this state-sponsored Secularism.  Read up on Mexico’s Cristero war.  France has been fighting religions since their revolution.  Orthodox and orthodox Christians in the USA have much more in common with the oppressed Muslim minority in France than we are willing to admit.  The application of law to force of service providers against their conscience is exactly the same issue: it is the state saying “play by our rules or else”.  Or else you must suffer a two-bit band of cartoonists making fun of your religion, or else you must bake cakes for weddings you abominate, or else you must take pictures you would classify as sinful: it is only a pinch of incense after all.

Epiphany Proclamation

Know, dearly beloved Brethren, that by the mercy of God, as we have been rejoicing in the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, so also do we announce unto you the joy of the Resurrection of the same our Saviour.
Septuagesima Sunday will be on the 8th day of February.
Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the fast of most holy Lent will be on the 25th of the same month.
On the 12th of April we shall celebrate with joy the holy Pasch of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ will be on the 21st of May.
The Feast of Pentecost on the 31st of the same month.
On the 29th of November will occur the first Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom are honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Tenth day of Christmas


The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

— John Betjeman (1906 – 1984)