Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christianity And Community

     I’ve labored virtually the whole morning over what you’re about to read. Now that it’s finished, I’m disturbed by it. No, not because it’s incorrect, badly reasoned, or poorly written; because its implications are alarming in the extreme. I swore as I sat to my task that I would follow the evidence wherever it might lead me. Having done so, I find myself beset by a powerful need to “make it all go away.”

     If you’re interested in what animated it all, this piece at the Washington Post will provide some supplementary value.

     Over at Gab, where I occasionally participate, I was surprised to see another commenter post this:

     Regardless of whether or not you believe in Christianity, it is needed in order to strengthen the cultural identity of white people.

     As a Catholic Christian, I have no problem with any of that. But it pleased me greatly to encounter someone else aware of the importance of our Christian heritage. However, we must not leave it at that. The backdrop to the matter is critically important.

     Many will disagree with what I’m about to say. Some will be offended...not that anyone’s opinion could make it less true. Facts are like that – and this is a fact:

Christianity created what we call Western Civilization.
The West would not survive the disavowal of Christianity.
Neither would the white race.

     Christianity is the common ethical foundation of all Western nations. Christian ethics, where they can be reliably presumed, make commerce, the division of labor, and voluntary cooperation possible. Alongside that, note that wherever whites have flourished, Christianity was there from the first. Wherever whites are a persecuted minority, Christianity is absent, and usually not tolerated. Those nations that are drifting away from Christianity are reaping the whirlwind for it.

     Some who would demur would offer as “counter-evidence” the hostility toward Christianity found in some of the luminaries of the Enlightenment, such as Voltaire. (“Man will never be free until the last king has been strangled with the entrails of the last priest” makes his opinion rather plain, doesn’t it?) But by now we should all know that he who is a genius in one field can be a total dunce in another.

     Christian colonial missionaries to Africa are largely responsible for what civilization can be found there. Where Christianity remains strong, there is a modicum of order and decency. Where Christianity has been expelled, or has been displaced as the natives reverted to tribalism and pagan shamanism, disorder and violent predation are prevalent. Moreover, black populations outside Africa show the same correlation. That, too, is a fact.

     Those nations where Christian allegiances have waned but a semblance of Western Civilization remains are running on a sort of momentum, an inherited social and ethical webwork beneath which the departure of Christianity has left a void. That webwork has begun to fray badly. The morals and ethics bequeathed to us by Christianity are supremely difficult to sustain vertically, through the generations, once severed from their Christian foundation.

     Christianity, from the very first, incorporated a sense of community: a bond among the Christians of a place independent of their variations in age, occupation, pastimes, or what-have-you. Indeed, in the earliest Christian parishes each member was expected to know all the others. More, they were expected to strive to be well-disposed toward the others: courteous in social or incidental contact, trustworthy in trade and cooperative concerns, and charitable toward those in need through no fault of their own. The bond was kept vital by involvement in the parish itself: its rituals, its festivals, and its celebrations of births, deaths, and marriages.

     After the Civil War, when the social and commercial interpenetration of the white and black races began in earnest, Christianity was the bridge. Blacks who embraced Christianity were accepted as trustworthy members of the community; blacks who did not were regarded more warily. This pattern is still observable today: there’s greater racial harmony in those regions of the United States where black Christian churches are strong than in those where they command few adherents. Community bonds trump racial differences.

     It is possible that no mingling of the races would have worked were it not for the Christian dictum to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Tranquil multiracial and multiethnic societies where Christianity is feeble or absent are very few.

     Among the most significant differences between our age and times past is the great quantity of laments over “alienation” and lack of “communication.” It’s becoming ever more difficult for Smith to be sure that he can trust Jones, or to be sure that he can understand Jones to mean what he says. Jones, of course, feels the same way about Smith. This is the direct consequence of moral relativism, especially in its multicultural garb. Culture cannot be separated from ethics.

     Ethical principles of the Christian sort can be arrived at rationally – i.e., without an appeal to Divine authority – but few persons possess the intellectual power required for the job. Those principles are best inculcated in one’s children “at their mother’s knee.” Christianity is a supremely powerful aid to that process; without it, Mom is reduced to trying to reason with that least reasonable of creatures, the unruly child. Thus, should Generation N lapse in its attachment to Christianity, it becomes more likely that Generation N+1 will contain a large proportion of ethically uncivilized persons.

     Not coincidentally, the secular tend not to bond to a community. No matter how much real estate they acquire or where, they remain nearly as unrooted as “drifters.” This is most observably the case among the unmarried. Worse, marriages of the secular sort have been displaying a mayfly-like longevity.

     A fully secular culture will lack both a common ethics and enduring communities. The commonalities among its citizens will be superficial, too thin to sustain Western ethics against the human impulse to manipulate others for personal gain. Tragically, pressures arising from Man’s quest for greater knowledge, greater control of his environment, and greater control of his own destiny will play a large part. Creeds that emphasize power and personal aggrandizement will flower in the void created by Christianity’s departure.

     C. S. Lewis noted this in That Hideous Strength:

     The sciences, good and innocent in themselves, had even in Ransom's own time begun to be subtly manoeuvred in a certain direction. Despair of objective truth had been increasingly insinuated into the scientists’ indifference to it, and a concentration upon power had been the result. Babble about the √©lan vital and flirtations with pan-psychism were bidding fair to restore the Anima Mundi of the magicians. Dreams of the far future destiny of man were dragging up from its shallow and unquiet grave the old dream of Man as God. The very experiences of the pathological laboratory were breeding a conviction that the stifling of deep set repugnances was the first essential for progress. And now all this had reached the stage at which its dark contrivers thought they could safely begin to bend it back so that it would meet that other and earlier kind of power. Indeed, they were choosing the first moment at which this could have been done. You could not have done it with nineteenth-century scientists. Their firm objective materialism would have excluded it from their minds; and their inherited morality would have kept them from touching dirt. MacPhee was a survivor from that tradition. It was different now. Perhaps few or none at Belbury knew what was happening: but once it happened, they would be like straw in fire. What should they find incredible, since they believed no longer in a rational universe? What should they regard as too obscene, since they held that all morality was a mere subjective by-product of the physical and economic situations of men? [Emphasis added by FWP.]

     This isn’t the way I’d originally intended to close this essay, but the thought pressed itself upon me with too much urgency to resist:

     If you want to be able to trust those around you...
     If you yearn to be part of a mutually supportive community...
     If you seek to instill in your children a sense of safety and acceptance...

     ...need I say more?


Anonymous said...

"Culture cannot be separated from ethics." Spot on. Without ethics to govern or more base urges no rational justice based system will survive. Without ethics it is the strong vs weak.. jungle law.

Seems there is some truth to the old adage that when societies forsake God they sow their own doom.

Dystopic said...

I know myself well enough to understand just how terrible and evil I could have become without the influence of Christianity. Just a bit of anecdotal evidence in favor of your thesis here.

I had more I wanted to say, about the duality of the West, the Christian foundation but the Greco-Roman tradition, both fused together, and how these sides nonetheless conflict, at times. But I'm afraid I'm not up to the task of dissecting that yet. One thing I can say, is that attempts to rationalize Christian morality, to sever it from the faith itself, have never really succeeded in full. We might regard Immanuel Kant and Jakob Fries as foremost among those who have tried. But they attempts came up short. Their attempts are nonetheless instructive and incredibly brilliant, even for (or perhaps because of) their failure. It is like how St. Thomas, in his concept of the First Mover, may have failed in his original goal, but stumbled across the most important facet of modern Christianity: the notion that we are movers ourselves, that we have wills, that we have free will, granted us by God.

Phelan Kell said...

We each have a piec of the Divine within us, our soul, it makes for a terrific truth detector. We are designed by God I believe to be men of good faith, creatures of Natural Law. Humanity came closest t Natural Law thru Christ's example. It's nature that men who are listening are drawn to that life/culture/ethos.

I stopped going to church sometime back because all I kept finding was social justice nonsense. This ties back to Dystopic's article several days back about arguing/converting political opponents. I have teenage children now and I love these discussions because they give me words and phrases for those teachable moments all parents seek with their progeny. I try to live His example for them, because I truly believe it is the path to happiness, but it is hard.

I kind of rambled and have lost my point because my daughter interrupted me with questions. :).

Thanks for your writing. I appreciate it