Monday, 16 October 2017

The Second Christendom

Returning From Babylon: Rebuilding Jerusalem

We have completed a second reading of Anthony Esolen's Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture [Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 2017].  Doubtless we will end up perusing it again.  

It is somewhat distracting that the title a pre-occupation with American culture and its reconstruction.  Most of the discussion in the book arises from recent cultural history in the US, as well as commentary upon the present discontent.  Yet we venture to say that most Christians scattered throughout the West--the UK, Europe, Australia and NZ--will immediately identify with the deeper context.  The focus and intent is to recover and rebuild Christendom--or be engaged in building the Second Christendom.

For that reason we wish Out of the Ashes would enjoy a broad, sustained international readership.  In the hope that we will help stimulate an even wider group of readers, we endeavour to entice folk by pointing them to a couple of paragraphs towards the end of the book.

The progressives of old had a clear idea of what they thought would bring about their earthly paradise: the dictatorship of the proletariat, the emancipation of women, the elimination of monarchy and its replacement with democracy, universal education, and so on.  None of their nostrums has delivered on its promise . . . .

So it is that democratic machinery without the soul of democracy has produced a far more intrusive and liberty-crushing state than anything that the proudest monarch could have imagined . . . .  So it is that universal schooling has not brought Milton to the millions, but rather has taken Milton away from the brightest and replaced him with "young adult" junk.   So it is that women have been emancipated from the freedom of the home and chained to salaried work and lives of relative loneliness.

The progressives of our time, however, no longer bother to tell us where they believe they are going.  They neither know nor care.  Having sown the wind, they reap the whirlwind and are at its mercy.  The rudder has cracked and the ship knows no direction.  At the moment the only liberty they believe in is the slavery of sexual license and the permission to fashion themselves in the image of any one of a multiplying number of sexual identities, whose very multiplicity and arbitrariness suggest how frail they are and how empty of meaning . . . . In other words, the progressives of our time have no notion of a goal and therefore no notion of progress. . . .

But we are pilgrims.  We must remember that at all times.  We are on the way.  [Ibid., p. 184f.]
The death of progressive culture will likely leave many carcasses in our cultural deserts and wildernesses.  Progressivism--as it plays out--will inevitably morph into civic violence as more and more are "forced into the freedom" of living and working in its dark, satanic mills.  Resistance will be framed as the ultimate of evils.  Walking to the beat of a different Drummer will be framed as treachery.  No quarter will be given, nor should we expect it.  As Esolen says, we are pilgrims.

We commend Out of the Ashes.  As Rod Dreher says, it is a "full-throated, stout-hearted call to arms--soul-stiring, uncompromising, and irresistible."

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