Monday, January 20, 2020

Modernity: Chemins D'Enfer

Ed: Sorry, it's a long post but I think its important and Weber says it better than I can.

What comes across in Weber's book on the modernisation of France is the pivotal role that roads and more importantly, railways had in modernisation.  It really is difficult to overstate just how deeply the railway changed society but  suffice to say that Modernity would have been impossible without it. To understand the effect it produced its important to understand what life was like for the average peasant before it.

Prior to the invention of the railway, life was local with all that implies. The economy was local, social interactions were local as were materials and means. Economically, it meant that it was a world of limited economic opportunities which in turn produced a mode of life that was conditioned by these limited means.
Since for a long time they recognized few changes indeed as suitable, the peasant masses were widely regarded as passive, stubborn, and stupid. Yet we can see now that their narrow vision was the vision of frightened men in desperate circumstances; that the village was a lifeboat striving to keep afloat in heavy seas, its culture a combination of discipline and reassurance designed to keep its occupants alive. Insecurity was the rule, existence consistently marginal. Tradition, routine, vigorous adherence to the family and the community- and to their rules-alone made existence possible. The village was
an association for mutual aid. Lands, pastures, and ovens were generally ruled in common; dates for sowing and harvesting were set for one and all. Since all had to pull together, no deviance could be tolerated.

In such circumstances, innovation was almost inconceivable. Routine ruled: the structural balance attained by a long process of trial and error, reinforced by isolation and physical circumstances. At Tarascon (Ariege) in 1852, "the agricultural population thinks present agricultural methods have reached their peak of development and must not be set aside, being the fruit of long experience." Wisdom was doing things the way they always had been done, the way they were supposed to be done. "If you do as your neighbor does, you do neither ill nor well," advises a proverb of Franche-Comte. To the peasant, routine connoted not mindless labor but precious experience, what had worked and hence would work again, the accumulated wisdom without which life could not be maintained. For the Landais farmer, wrote Jean Ricard in 19I1, the past was "a guarantee of the present; in freeing himself from it he would fear to compromise the future."
Many peasants, says the Comte de Neufbourg in a book full of good sense and quite ignored, "live from day to day, and routine foresees things for them. We should not mock or destroy this routine: it would be missed, it is their wisdom." Subsistence farming-raising a bit of everything and making one's own bread and clothing-was a matter not of blind routine but of calculated necessity: "When one buys one's bread there is never any money left." Routine, concludes Daniel Faucher, is "the precious fruit of experience, a treasury of wisdom"; the peasant abandons it "only when assured that he can do so without damage." And that, as we have seen, is what happened.
Traditional communities continued to operate in the traditional manner as long as conditions retained their traditional shape: low productivity, market fluctuations beyond the producer's control, a low rate of savings, little surplus. What surplus the peasant could accumulate was taken from him in taxes or usurious interest, spent on church buildings and feasts, or invested in land. But land did not increase total production until capital investment in improvements became both possible and thinkable. And this did not happen until the market became an accessible reality, that is, until the expanding communications network brought it within reach. Economic growth could then proceed at a faster pace,· and producers could literally change their minds about what they were doing and to what end. Road and rail were the decisive factors in this change. Schools shaped and accelerated it. 
When you live an existence that is perilously close to starvation you minimise risk. Tradition was useful for precisely for that reason, and just as there are no atheists in foxholes, the precarious mode of existence, where death and ruin was a frequent and sudden occurrence, focused men on the afterlife and was conducive to religion. And it produced a certain mindset.
The very use of terms like out-of-date reflects a viewpoint alien to the traditional order. In a world highly dependent on natural conditions, seasonal and liturgical rhythms governed people's sense of time. Every situation had its earlier precedent, equivalent, or analogy. It was in the past that people sought lessons for the present: not new lessons but old ones that were never out-of date. Past and present were not two but one: a continuum of time lived, not a series of units measured by the clock. A feast or a fire, a harvest good or bad, a family event, lived on in memory and served as a more natural point of reference than the calendar. Songs and tales about events a century old evoked
powerful emotions. Proximity in time was relative, almost unimportant

Traditional time had no fixed units of measure; there was not even a break between work and leisure. Even the loss of time (comings and goings, pauses, waiting) passed largely unnoticed because integrated in routine and unquestioned. We have seen, for example, that land was often counted in the units of man or animal time it took to work it: not a fixed measure but one relative to conditions. Conditions also determined the value of time: it was cheap, very cheap, when everything else was scarce.
The railway changed everything. Weber quotes French statisticians that noted that were a railway appeared economic activity increased by about ten times. The railway bought prosperity but "prosperity" does not convey the profound change in the mode of life that it bought about.
The area around Die also changed radically after 1880. The region had stayed almost self-sufficient. So long as mules were the only means of transport, there was no point in growing commercialcrops for export, for instance fruit, to which its climate was well suited. Once roads and railroads breached the mountains and connected "this cell of the French Alps" to the life that flowed only some miles away, past the Drome gorges in the Rhone valley's plains, buyers appeared for cattle, lavender, and in due course fruit from newly developed orchards; chemical fertilizer and superphosphates could reach the narrow valleys and help meet new demands; rye gave way to wheat; comfort replaced grinding poverty. The profound transformation can be dated to the railway's coming in 1894 and the years immediately following, when the peasants became used to it and learned how to handle the formalities involved in shipping and receiving merchandise. The outside world, which till then had had little bearing on their own, now came in with a rush: skills like writing invoices and bills of lading, counting, and schooling in general acquired concrete meaning as occasions to use them multiplied. It was a story that repeated itself elsewhere
To illustrate just one way in which prosperity eroded the old order, consider the effect of dress and fashion on maintaining the social order. It's easy to maintain a heirarchy when the clothing you wear marks you out for belonging to a certain social class. However the prosperity bought about by rail also bought better clothing and the ability to keep up with fashion,  which in turn started undermining at the obvious social distinctions.  By the 1880's, Weber reports of how many people upper classes were lamenting about people dressing "above their station." On its own it means nothing, but taken in totality with all the other changes, it was part of a  force replacing the old order which was unstoppable.
My purpose is not to chronicle the growth of the wine industry or of any other, but to suggest what the presence of viable and accessible roads and rails did to people and to their way of life. It changed them radically. It opened possibilities sometimes sighed for but never within reach. The turning wheels on road and railway, even wheelbarrows, meant vastly greater carrying power, more movement and faster movement, more productivity and more resources,more choice or at least more freedom to choose. ..... Roads and rails brought men into the market, permitted them to drink wine or sell it profitably, or to develop crops that could not be marketed before, and to give up growing others that could now be bought more cheaply. They also brought ruin to local   enterprises no longer protected by earlier isolation, to outdated occupational groups like the riverboatmen, and to producers of mediocre local goods or crops fated to be  outmatched by specialized ones......The move was not only in space, but in time and mind as well: roads and rails introduced new foods into the diet, new materials in the building of the house, new objects in its interior, new tools in the fields about it, new things to do on holidays, and new kinds of clothes to wear. They offered opportunities for enterprise and hence for social mobility that were not there before; the jobs that went with roads and railways alone were temptations that set many on the move.
A few peasants had watches and displayed them with pride. But even to them a watch was "a horse in the stable," useless when one could refer to cockcrows, to the stars, to the sun's touching this or that rock or tree, or to one's own shadow. As with watches, so with the calendar. The calendar year meant nothing, the rhythm of seasons everything. In Auvergne the basic division was between winter, from All Souls to Saint George's day (November I-April 23), and summer, when beasts could sleep out of doors. In Franche-Comte, summer was divided not into months but into "times": the time for going outdoors (patchi fou, going out), essentially spring; the times for haying and for harvesting. In the late autumn and winter, there were "times" for sewing and for vieillin (veillees) .
In the French language, temps refers to both weather and duration: two concepts to us but not to the peasant whose longer hours of work came in the fair weather of the summer. To the farmer, time is work; life is work; work brings subsistence and independence. In the city, time and work have another meaning: productivity, surplus, profit, comfort, leisure. In late-nineteenth century France these two notions of time clashed, and one disappeared. No other outcome was possible. The new world of markets and of schools worked only on its kind of time; and the difference was fundamental. Old skills based on watching and imitating what one's elders did, old forms of intuition learned from the wise or simply discovered in oneself, gave way before the new techniques and practices of rationality. Success was achieved not by harder work, greater strength, or inspired guessing, but by superior reasoning. The new process was rational ("we do this because"), quantitative ("this way we turn out that much more"), abstract ("these are the rules"). Internalized rhythms of labor were replaced by learned skills and norms. A man who thinks his work is no worse, certainly, than one who does not; but he is certainly different.
What Weber documents is the change in the mindset of the common man bought about by the new prosperity. And it was a change which was qualitative, discontinuous with the mindset of the past. And it was a mindset which I feel did not actively reject the past as much as it found it irrelevant and not of any use.  Charles Taylor talks about the change from the "porous" to the "buffered" self but the approach he takes is far too intellectual and implies a conscious choice in the state of being whereas what Weber describes is an adaptation to a new state of affairs: more evolutionary than deliberately revolutionary. Less a philosophical position than a pragmatic acceptance of affairs in the minds of the average man.

For Christianity, especially Catholicism, this change in mindset proved disastrous. But it should no have had to have been so.  While it's true that the old equilibrium between the agrarian existence of Europe and Christianity had been shattered  a new one could have probably been achieved had the Church the capacity to adapt, but it didn't. Instead it took a reactionary stance that went well beyond doctrinal lines and shot itself in the foot by doing so. Perhaps this is best expressed by the actions of Pope Gregory the XVI, who in an attempt to forestall modernity banned the introduction of railways into the Papal states.  His successor, seeing the benefits of technology and the benefits it conferred to the poor reversed this decision and thereby contributed to the modernity which Christianity has been unable to deal with.

I suppose what I'm trying to say here in this post is that engineering and not the Enlightenment is the pre-eminent dimension of Modernity.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Modernity: The Way We Were

Those who express regret at the passing of the level-headed, vigorous, hard working countryman of yore have no idea what he was really like-no more, in many cases, than his contemporaries had. As Philip Gaskell observes, of the Scottish Highlander in roughly the same period: "He lived not in· picturesque, rural felicity, but in conditions of penury and squalor that can only be fairly compared with those of a famine area in contemporary India, and that were tolerable only because they were traditional and familiar" .

One of the books which has strongly shaped my interpretation of modern history is, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernisation of Rural France, 1870-1914 by Eugen Weber. The book has won numerous accolades and is considered one of the influential texts of modernisation theory. Weber has a great writing style and the genius of the book is writing it from the perspective of the peasant/worker rather than from the vantage of the upper or intellectual class. Through numerous anecdotal examples of the effect of modernisation on the "little" people, Weber is able to convey the profound changes and transformation of the traditional French way of life that it was able to effect.

I think many of the traditionalist intellectuals who despair of the changes modernity has bought about tend to focus on the intellectual and philosophical developments which enabled the modern degeneracy. But what is often ignored in this analysis is the profound way technology and organisation, morally neutral things in themselves, utterly uprooted the traditional way of life independently of any corruption of ideas. It's not just the ideas but the "environment" matters as well.

Weber, while taking a humanist approach, is not a sentimentalist and his description of pre-Modern France, i.e the France of the recent Enlightenment is pretty brutal, and dispels any notions of a of an idyllic Christendom of milk and honey that is so often intimated by Christian Traditionalists. The life lived by the average man prior to modernity was strictly local...and hard.  Through page after page Weber describes the grinding affect of poverty on peoples lives. Death through overwork, neglect of those who cannot produce, risk aversion--which stifled innovation--and poverty, endless poverty.
Peasants in Upper Quercy began work at dawn, ended late at night, often went to work their own plot by moonlight after having worked another's land by day. "No more rest and no more easel" lamented a landowner near Nantes in 1856. "Everyone scrimps, ... works without care for rest or food, ... to buy a plot of land from some neighbor ruined by usury ."
The more ambitious you were, the harder you worked. Benolt Malon's father, employed on a Forez farm, was free to work his potato patch and his kitchen garden on Sunday after church. He died at thirty-three of pleurisy, which he contracted as he hurried to get to his freshly planted potatoes. As late as 1908 in the marshlands of the Vendee a man farming four hectares with only a spade (thus able to work no more than four ares a day) left home at five in the morning, returned at seven in the evening, and never saw his children. · Hard labor without chains-to which one remained bound by necessity and from which only death could bring release.
The other impression that Weber is able to convey is the sense and primacy  of locality in the Pre-Modern world. For many people, life was lived almost entirely within a circle of ten miles across. Isolation meant that ideas and customs arose endogenously and locally with the result that each region developed its own unique identity. On the other hand, the isolation locked the community out from the outside world and its ideas.

The only "trans-local" institutional presence in these rural areas of France was the Church which usually formed the focus and defacto administrative body of the locality. In essence, given the environmental and technical limitations it had a captive market and over time it developed a symbiotic relationship with its communities. Time, as well as agricultural production, was organised through the Church calendar, knowledge was dispensed by the priests, all significant events such as births, deaths and marriages had a religious involvement. A local public celebrations and feasts were usually Church run affairs. Religion and agricultural localism had become integrated.

But the religiosity of the people was not one of doctrinal purity, instead it was mixed with a strong sense of magic and superstition. And while many of the priests were conscious of the mixture and tried to rid the peasantry of these unwanted additions to the faith, the fact was--as Weber demonstrates through numerous anecdotes--an accomodation was reached whereby the Priest tolerated--and frequently suffered--for these foibles of the faithful.

But what I think Weber conveys quite well is how Pre-Modern society was the way it was because of the interplay--and equilibrium-- between cultural factors and physical constraints. And this is really important, because modernity is not just simply the consequence of "bad philosophy" but its also the consequence of technological advancements which were able to break down many of the constraints of the past, destroying the equilibrium.  Once you recognise this important point you realise that technology is as much of a solvent Old World as are some of the corrupt ideas of certain strands of the Enlightenment.  Christian restorationists, wanting to go "back",  have to reckon not just with bad philosophy but also with good technology,  that point being that any restoration of the Old World is impossible except apocalyptically.

In essence, what Weber's book does is demonstrate to a certain degree, Lewis Mumford's thesis in Technics and Civilisation: namely the key feature of modernity is the increasing integration of the machine into civilisation with the consequent possibilities and transformations that it brings. Mumford also recognised that while the machine was integral to the modern world the direction which the modern world took was a function of the values to which the machine was applied.  Any Western restoration, which in my opinion requires the rebuilding of Christianity, is going to have to stop trying to restore the past but will instead have to rely on the capturing of modernity. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Protestant Integralism

I know I told Bruce Charlton that my next post was going to be on modernisation but I've been struck down with a cold and the brain is a bit mushy.

One of the interesting questions for me is why did countries like Spain, Portugal and Ireland, which could in many way be considered Integralist,  so rapidly secularise following the collapse of the political structures which supported the Church.

One of the brightest guys dealing with the subject is José Casanova, one of the world's top scholars on the sociology of religion. Cassanova's expertise is in the relation between religion, modernity and secularisation. I thought I would post an extended quote from one of his books as he provides a very good explanation with regard to the mechanics at play.  For those of you who can't be bothered reading it the executive summary is as follows:

1) Catholicism made no space for the secular.
2) Any secularising force had to to oppositional to Catholicism and therefore hostile.
3) Calvinism allowed a secular space.
4) Protestantism was able to blur the distinction between the secular and sacred, integrating the two in a way that Catholicism was never able.

As John Witte shows in this book, Luther reassembled the dualism of the Augustinian two kingdoms theory in novel ways that led to relocations of the sacred, the religious and the secular. Most importantly - and this is the key difference with the laicist Southern-Latin pattern - the core dualism between the religious clergy and the secular laity is dissolved by mutual infusion, so that, in Witte's formulation, "Luther's doctrine of the priesthood of all believers at once laicised' the clergy and 'clericised' the laity."[ED] The 'clerical' office of preaching and teaching was secularised, becoming one secular vocation just like any other, while the traditional 'lay' offices now became "forms of divine calling and priestly vocation." 
The 'church' is also radically transformed in the process. A new dualism now emerges between the ecclesiastical institution, which as a visible church is just, part of the saeculum that falls under the law of the earthly kingdom, i. e., the state, and the invisible church of the eschatological communion of the saints. In the process, the 'true religion', the Kingdom of God, of Love and of the Gospel, mutates into a religion of inwardness and migrates to the individual conscience, eventually giving birth to pietist movements on the margins of the ecclesiastical institution, which prepared the ground for the modern cult of the individual and the sacralisation of human rights. Secularisation or soft `deconfessionalisation' in this context means : a) continued adherence to the national church, which remains under the jurisdiction of the national sovereign; b) a drastic decline in religious (ecclesiastical) beliefs (confessional faith) and practices (rituals); c) interiorisation of a modern, individual, spiritual realm which becomes the authentic space of the sacred. There are of course tensions between the three domains of the religious-secular-sacred: a) the democratic national collective (the civil religion); b) the ecclesiastical Lutheran church; and c) the individual inward conscience. But there is no radical chasm or schism between the three.
 The Southern Latin Catholic pattern evinces different dynamics of dissociation and relocation of the social sacred (state and nation), the ecclesiastical institution (the Catholic Church) and the religion of the individual. The process of absolutist confessionalisation is based on a close alliance between throne and altar, but the transnational structure of the Catholic Church and papal supremacy do not allow the kind of integration and fusion of the two one finds in the Nordic Lutheran pattern, even under caesaro-papist Gallicanism[ED]. The secularisation of the state takes place through a radical break with the church that resists disestablishment. The schism here leads to a protracted chasm, indeed to a kind of prolonged civil war within the social sacred between a new republican laicist civil religion and the old national Catholic religion. The Latin-Catholic path of laicization is marked not by integration but by civil-ecclesiastical and laic-clerical antagonism. It maintains rigidly the boundaries between the religious and the secular, but pushes those boundaries into the margins, containing, privatising and marginalising everything religious. When it breaks the monastery walls, it will not be to bring the religious into the secular world, but to laicize them, dissolving and empting their religious content and making religious people (monks and nuns) civil and laic before forcing them into the secular world. Deconfessionalisation of state, nation, and individuals here means assertive anti-Catholic unchurching.
The absolutist principle cuius regio ejus religio was not significantly altered by the shift of sovereignty from the monarch to the nation or people with the fall of the ancient regimes or with increasing massive democratisation process in the 20th century. European societies have remained religiously homogeneous societies, and the only significant change has been that from belief to unbelief. In this sense the process of European secularisation ought to be understood primarily as a process of deconfessionalization of states, nations, and individuals. But here one can also distinguish between the Nordic pattern of soft deconfessionalisation, which can best be characterized as 'belonging without believing', that is, secularisation without unchurching, and the more radical deconfessionalisation of the Catholic South that accompanies laicist unchurching. Denmark presents the paradigmatic case of a European society with one of the lowest rates of religious belief and practice accompanied by one of the highest rates of confessional affiliation in the national church, the Church of Denmark. In this respect, to be Danish, to be Lutheran, and to be secular amounts to one and the same thing. This contrasts with the Southern Catholic pattern (France, Belgium and, increasingly, Spain, but not so much Portugal or Italy) of radical secularization and laicist deconfessionalisation.
The secular is understood here in drastic laicist, anti-clerical, and often anti-religious terms that demand assertive unchurching. Spaniards in post-Francoist Spain who took the resisting Catholic Church to court in order to get their names erased from the church's baptismal registry may serve as a vivid illustration of this assertive deconfessionalisation.

(José Casanova:Secular and sacred? The Scandinavian case of religion in human rights, law and public sphere)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

I'd like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a prosperous and safe New Year. In keeping with the Protestant theme of recent posts I thought I would post a link to one of my favourite Christmas carols: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The Catholic Right likes to diss Protestantism but its worth remembering that there are a lot of good things in Protestantism that need to be acknowledged and affirmed.

God bless.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Alternative Modernities

How Modernity differs from the pre-Modern is rather difficult to succinctly state but suffice to say that there is a qualitative difference between pre-Modern and Modern societies which can be recognised by looking at them.

For the purpose of this post I want to take world as it was in 1940 to illustrate what I'm getting at. The England of 1940 was modern society compared to the England of 1640. Industrialization, urbanisation, mechanisation and so on had changed life to such a degree that the mode of living for the average citizen was substantially different.  England was modern in a way that Yugoslavia or rural Romania was not. Likewise Germany, France, USA, Sweden, Russia, Japan etc were modern societies.

While all of these societies were modern, the expression of their modernity was largely contingent up local factors which shaped the path of modernity in their countries. Germany, while modern, was different to the U.S.A., which was different to Japan. Remember, this is 1940.

One of the distinguishing features of modern societies is the rise of a managerial class which is responsible for the administration and co-ordination of all the institutions which make modern life possible. In Germany and Japan, this managerial class was fascistic, in Russia, it was Marxist and in England and USA it was Protestant. Modernity, in each of these countries was strongly influenced by the cultural values of its managerial class. The reason why the Anglosphere was a haven for individual liberty, freedom of conscience, respect for the person, prosecution of degeneracy and freedom of religion is because they were the values of mainstream Protestantism at the time. Anglosphere modernity was Protestant tinged. Mainstream Protestantism as it was 1940.

I don't want to get into Catholic modernity since it is a far more complex subject but suffice to say Catholicism has a very difficult relationship with it and its relationship to it has been frequently antagonistic instead of co-operative. In 1940 it proved to be relatively irrelevant to world affairs.

Anyway what I'm trying to get at is that modernity can assume many different forms and not all of them are intrinsically hostile toward religion. I think one of the great weak spots of Right wing thought is the anti-modernistic sentiment seen so often in many of the commentators. Agrarian simplicity is only appealing to those who have never had to work the land. The problem is not so much modernity as it is irreligion.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Rethinking Protestantism III: Ernst Troeltsch

Gentlemen, Everything is tottering!
Protestantism gets a lot of grief in reactionary circles especially with regard to its relationship with liberalism and the modern world.  And I personally feel that a some of this criticism is quite justified. However, I do think that many critiques of Protestantism miss the fact that it seems to have "handled" modernity in a way that Catholicism wasn't able to.

In order to keep this post manageable, I'm going to define modernity as the sociopolitcal environment that has come about from the implementation of ideas of the Enlightenment. i.e. contemporary society and political state.  The distinguishing feature of modernity is the legitimisation and autonomy of the secular.

From the outset, Catholicism has had a problem with this state of affairs. UntilVatican Two, it could be safely said that it's aim was to reintroduce the Church's position in society that it had assumed in the Middle Ages. i.e. A complete involvement in every aspect of life to the degree that it felt it was appropriate. Any "secular space" in such a schema was really nothing more than "light touch" Catholicism. There was no true secular space in such a society nor can there be one where the faith is "integral" to it.

However, the ages of faith were as much a condition of temporal contingencies as they were of religious devotion and Modernity sideswiped Catholicism because it didn't understand this fact. The Printing press, large scale commerce, industrialisation, steam power and urbanisation were as toxic to its medieval preeminence as were heretical ideas. Modernity inherently generates secular spaces and the problem for Catholicism is that it doesn't know how to deal with secularity.

The other problem with Catholicism is that it has one model of "holiness".  Good Catholics are those who spend a lot of time practicing Catholic asceticism which involves an effective withdrawal from the world. However secular competence involves spending more time in the affairs of the world. The result is that the more "holy" a catholic, the more "aescetic" they are and the less secular they can be. i.e. Good Catholics spend lots of time in Church like affairs, bad Catholics spend time in the affairs of this world. Hence Catholicism's paucity of lay saints.  This may also go a long way to explaining the inefficiency of many Catholic secular institutions.

At the dawn of the 20th Century Ernst Troeltsch was one of the foremost public Protestant theologians. Unfortunately, he seems to have been mostly forgotten during most of the 20th Century, though recently there has been a resurgence in his thought. One of his areas of interest was in the relationship of Protestantism and Modernity. He was also a fair and sympathetic critic of Catholicism and incidentally, the next door neighbour of Max Weber.  His book Protestantism and Progress deals with this subject explicitly and I thought it would be worth to jot down a few of my thoughts on it as Troeltsch has several interesting ideas.

Firstly, Troelstch does not see a direct link with Protestantism and Modernity, the relationship being far more complex. Troeltsch, unlike many Catholic scholars, situates the origin of Modernity in the Renaissance humanism of Italy and regards early Protestantism as the continuation of the Middle Ages and anti-Modernist. The early Protestant division, Lutherism and Calvinism initially compete as alternative "churches" to the Catholic Church. It's approximately two centuries after the division that the Protestantism starts to fully develop along the lines of its doctrinal innovations and begins to rid itself of the habits of Catholicism.

Secondly, Troeltsch argues that Protestantism develops along its doctrinal lines and emergence of personal conscience and self-sanctification through the pursuit of vocation enable it to engage the world in a way that Catholicism could not. Protestant "vocationalism" is able to Christianise the world by getting into the thick of it.
...while Protestantism has furthered the rise of the modern world, often largely and decisively, in none of these departments does it appear as its actual creator. What it has done is simply to secure for itgreater freedom of development and that, moreover, in the various departments in very various ways ; and besides, the action of the different Confessions and groups has differed  in strength and direction. All it has anywhere done is to favour, strengthen, colour, and modify the course of the development, while in some cases it maintained and even rein forced the opposing influences drawn from the Late-medieval view of life
...religion is really derived from religion, and the results of its influence are really, in the first place, religious. Religion becomes a power in ordinary life only by taking up civilisation into itself and giving it a special direction. But it always itself remains distinct from this civilisation ; it is always more a formative than a creative force.
Protestantism is able to "capture" modernity and modulate it according to its particular denomination. In the case of the Amish it is a "backwards" force, while in the case of the Calvinists it was able to develop it along Christian lines in a "forward" direction.

Thirdly, Troeltsch recognises--like much of the reactosphere--that the weak point of Protestantism is its individual subjectivity which is able to ditch the theological doctrines which enabled it while maintaining the habit of them. Protestantism while being able to engage the world also has the dangerous propensity to become part of it and in the end undermine itself.
Another point which has to be taken into account is that the inner ecclesiastical structure of the Protestant Churches, and especially of Lutheranism, is considerably weaker than that of Catholicism, and therefore when con fronted with the modern world of ideas, has less resisting power than Catholicism.
Here the essentially Protestant basis of this movement is clearly evident, the transformation of the idea of freedom and grace into the ideas of the self -directing personality and a spiritual fellowship having its roots in history, all on the basis of a theism which has taken up into itself the idea of immanence. Moreover, this modern religious temper, in a thousand various modifications, has been so thoroughly absorbed by large portions of modern Protestantism, that the latter can scarcely be distinguished from the former. But it is equally unmistakable that modern religious feeling is in other cases dissatisfied with this, after all, ultimately Personalistic idea, and under the sense of the iron uniformity of natural law, of the world as a monster devouring all humanity, or, on the other hand, of the aesthetic glorification of the world and cult of individuality, tends towards ideas and feelings which are radically pantheistic, pessimistic, or, again, absolutely revolutionary, aiming blindly at producing some change or other. And where this spirit prevails, all relation to the practical, political, economic, and technical side of our civilisation is often entirely forgotten.
Troeltsh seems to recognise that Protestantism, in practice is a spectrum from the religiously sincere to those with a habit of it only. When Protestantism is "good" it is able to Christianise modernity, when Protestantism goes bad, it becomes an anti-civilisational power.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Sex Abuse Saga Quote Du Jour

Although it comes from the local left wing rag, this comment by the Chief Commissioner of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse is worth some thought:
“I cannot comprehend how any person, much less one with qualifications in theology [ED] ... could consider the rape of a child to be a moral failure but not a crime,” Justice McClellan said in a speech to the Australian Human Rights Commission. “This statement by leaders of the Catholic Church marks out the corruption within the Church both within Australia, and it seems from reports, in many other parts of the world.”
It's easy when your theological training effectively makes mercy to the criminal more important than justice to the victim.

As I've said before there are two elements to this saga:

1) The particular crimes committed by the individual criminals.
2) The institutional response once the crimes were made known to the Church.

As the institutional response was the same throughout the world, the failure of the Church to respond appropriately should not be seen primarily as a failure of specific individuals to act, but rather a systemic problem in the Church rooted in its "operational" principles.