It’s not what you think…
At the risk of appearing to place myself in good company, I think G.K. Chesterton may agree. I say that having just read his novel “The Flying Inn.” Written in 1914, the story can be read as a prophecy describing political authorities changing English culture to help Muslims feel more at home.
First, a ban on alcohol is imposed. Then, voting traditions are changed: “We must not ask them to make a cross on their ballot papers; for though it seems a small thing, it may offend them. So I brought in a little bill to make it optional between the old-fashioned cross and an upward curved mark that might stand for a crescent — and as it’s rather easier to make, I believe it will be generally adopted.” In our time, life imitates satire: A Swedish Lutheran bishop calls for the removal of crosses from churches so that “Muslims won’t feel offended.”
In Chesterton’s novel, the real problem isn’t Muslims. Rather, the real problem is modernist sophisticates armed with a shallow education, pretensions to wisdom, political power, and a readiness to “fix” what God and man have made of Christendom. The antagonist of the novel is asked, “Do you think you made the world, that you should make it over again so easily?” The chilling reply: “’The world was made badly,’ said Ivywood, with a terrible note in his voice, ‘and I will make it over again.’”
That’s the novel’s main point, and it’s a menace we face today. Influential people in government, academia, culture—and, yes, let’s admit it, self-identified Christians—with little knowledge and less love of Christian faith and culture are eager to purge the West of Christian heritage, identity, practice and hope. Is it any surprise, then, when zealous Muslims step forward into the vacuum left by secular and religious modernists who sense no gratitude or obligation to the Christian inheritance they’re tossing away?
Two authors have produced, respectively, a video and a book called, “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.” Both authors agree that the secularists who hate the Church and the assimilated religious who are ignorant of the Church enjoy (for now) the freedoms and social order bequeathed by Catholic Christendom, while for decades they have been destroying the very foundations they stand upon.
As religious communities shrink (a dynamic referred to euphemistically as “the grace of diminishment”), parishes close, and numbers at Mass and confession plummet, there seems to be a rush to hasten the institutional demise of the Church. Meanwhile, the civilizational building blocks blessed and guarded by Christian doctrine and practice, including family, education, work, virtue, and community, are under relentless assault by people who don’t care, as well as by people who should know better.
Christians have been baptized into Christ and made heirs of his Kingdom. We are already now heirs of the Christian heritage of thought, culture, morals, wisdom and worship. The bold claim of Christendom is that Christian culture and practice lived in this life form saints who become citizens of Heaven in the next life. God has not given us another way, and man, despite his bitter best efforts, has not and cannot devise another way.
Consider these words from Brazilian scholar Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: “This is our goal, our great ideal: let us advance towards a Catholic civilization to be born from the ruins of the modern world, just as medieval civilization was born from the ruins of the Roman world.” We must do so, for the world that does not know Christ is in darkness, and the world that once knew Christ has abandoned him.
Was Jesus exaggerating when he said “Apart from me you can do nothing”? Apart from Christ, we cannot achieve God’s purposes for us. If we allow cultural and political elites and the religiously indifferent to negotiate away truly Christian civilization, terrible consequences follow. Others will step in where Christians once flourished and worshiped. Meanwhile, Christians will have repudiated their ancestors, their descendants, and any realistic hope of Heaven.
What are we to do? Dean Abbot identifies the first step: “We have built a society that can only be survived by ceasing to care about it.” In other words, we must surrender the illusion that the present world can be saved. We cannot negotiate with our secular and sectarian enemies. We cannot find a haven where the world will leave us alone. We cannot cut a deal with a Christ-hating world. (John 15:18)
We can begin again when we re-center our hearts on Christ, retrieve what his Church has bequeathed us, and walk together towards Calvary and beyond.
Next week, I will speak of re-building Christian culture. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
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