Friday, November 29, 2019

Rethinking Protestantism: II

As Max Weber made clear, the Protestant Reformation will open up one of these two roads by erasing physically and symbolically the walls separating the world and the monastery and by extending the calling to perfection to all Christians living in the world through their professional calling. 'To be monks in the world,' this is the spirit of the Protestant ethic and of modern secular vocational asceticism. In Protestant countries, secularization will have from the beginning an anti-monastic and anti-popish, but not an anti-religious meaning, insofar as its rationale was precisely religious reformation, putting an end to the dualism between religion and world, making religion more secular and the saeculum more religious, bringing religion to the world and the world to religion. The Protestant Reformation brought down the monastery walls separating the religious and secular worlds, and opened the way for their mutual interpenetration. This marks particularly the Anglo-Saxon Protestant road of secularization. Secularization and the parallel modernization do not entail necessarily the decline of religion.
 


Catholic conceptions of holiness tend to strongly emphasise the ascetic nature of religion. Holiness, in this schema, is thought of an increasing devotion to God through prayers, self denial, sacrifice and asceticism, and is seen as synonymous with the ideal clerical life. The lay person, who wishes to seek  holiness, aims to emulate the best practices of the clergy in their devotion to God. So, in a way, if a Catholic wants to become more deeply religious he does by following a model pioneered by the priests and monks. More prayer, more adoration, more Masses, more fasts, etc. And one of the interesting things about Catholicism is the fact that majority of the saints come from the ordained and relatively few from the laity. This state of affairs is more a reflection of the fact that the Church's  has only one recognised mode of "holiness"  and that the practices associated with this mode is is only practically attainable by those who deliberately pursue the consecrated/religious life.  In effect, Catholics have one "mode" of holiness and its difficult to live the lay life and combine it with this modality.

This guy--of all people!--highlights the problem succinctly.

Yet, this would appear to be a "modern" innovation. It was accepted--in the Middle Ages-- that a certain type of holiness could be achieved through the profession of arms. i.e the knight. And that sanctity was possible through just action on the battlefield.  But it does appear that Catholicism developed only a limited number of different modalities for achieving sanctity. By and large, sanctity in Catholicism was mainly achieved by following the model pioneered by religious ascetics.

One of the consequences of the Reformation was a rethinking of the nature of holiness. Protestantism vigorously attacked the distinction between the clergy and the laity. Under Protestantism, all who believed in Christ were "Priests" and this had the effect of opening up the possibility of sanctity to all believers in a way that Catholicism couldn't. Unlike Catholicism  where sanctity was seen as being synonymous with self-denial, mortification and asceticism, the Protestant conception of holiness recognised that it could achieved through the sincere Christian expression of whatever office or rank a person held in life. Some would say that Protestantism clericised the laity but that conception mixes the habits of the clergy with life practices of the laity. I think it would be far better to say that Protestantism produced a "Civic Christianity" in place of the "Clerical Christianity" of Catholicism.

Protestant bankers, for instance, could be considered "priestly" if they executed their office with righteousness, honesty and integrity. Protestant workers were righteous in the sight of God if they did not attempt to defraud their employer and worked for him as if they were working for God. Protestant public servants would strive to be honest and incorruptible.  The whole principle being that a Protestant's Christianity would infuse whatever task he was doing so that standing before God he would be able to claim that he was acting as God's faithful steward; be that a banker, a clerk, railroad worker or teacher. In the movie, Chariots of Fire, the Protestant, Eric Liddell, is able to transform his athleticism into a powerful expression of the Christian faith. Running and not ascetisicism  is the mechanism of his sanctification.

What Protestantism effectively did is expand the modalities by which a Christian could achieve sanctity, opening it up to people who neither had the time, nor the inclination to pursue the "clerical" model. Whereas the secular, before, could afford to be a bit "dirty" since it wasn't holy, Protestantism cleaned it up.  Protestantism infused Christianity into the secular domain in a way that Catholicism couldn't and suddenly it became a far more serious matter to be a corrupt businessman, judge or politician. And it's this type of Christianity which I believe was instrumental in the rapid social and economic advance of the Protestant countries following the Reformation.

The superior socio-economic performance of these societies was an emergent phenomenon contingent upon their civic Christianity. Independence of action, high trust, low levels of dishonesty, honest and good public governance, personal freedom and private initiative worked synergistically in a way that was not possible in Catholic countries and produced a superior social, economic and political outcome. Catholic countries could only begin to approach such levels in the late 20th C. (which also resulted in a pseudo-Protestantisation of their countries). Uncritical Catholic fanboys may dismiss this view but when Clark liberated Rome and the Vatican from the Nazi's it was as an Episcopalian General commanding an army of soldiers from a country founded on Enlightened Protestant beliefs---formerly condemned by the Pope.< /irony>  The Catholic world had no response. Catholic South America was twiddling its thumbs and France was useless.

As as side effect of this transformation of religious expression,  Protestantism was able to achieve a degree of integralism that Catholic traditionalists could only dream about. Whereas in the Catholic  model, there was in inbuilt duality between the secular and clerical/religious,  any attempts and "evangelising" society within this model resulted in the state managed imposition of the clerical onto the secular which resulted in a pressure cooker situation.

On the other hand, Protestantism, with its much broader conception of holiness, did not demand the everyone assume a quasi-clerical lifestyle. This blurred the distinction between the secular and the religious and made a confessional state far easier to achieve as less was demanded by the state on the citizen.  Therefore there was far less tension between the Church and the state. Compare the hostility of the Spanish secularists with that of the Nordic.

Despite all of it's faults--and there are many--it's increasingly my opinion that the emergence of Protestantism was a necessary event for the survival of Christianity. At it's birth, Modernity was around the corner, and its emergence provided the necessary vehicle by which Christianity could transition into it .

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Vatican II as Catholic Perestroika



It is said that the priestly ordination of lay people in distant communities is necessary, because of the difficulty encountered by ministrants in reaching them. In my view, the setting of the problem in these terms reveals an ingrained clericalism. It seems that where there is no "priest" or "nun" there is no ecclesial life. The basic problem is much more serious. A Church has been created where the laity do not see themselves as protagonists and where there is little or no sense of belonging, a Church that, if there is no "priest", does not work. This is an ecclesiological and pastoral aberration. Our faith, as Christians, is rooted in baptism, not in priestly ordination.
(Father Martin Lasarte)

I really did not take much interest in the Amazon Synod simply because to me it looked like more of the same thing that the Church has been doing for the past fifty years. People got worked up about Pachamama and the issue of lay ordination but to me it really was all about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  Still, one guy did catch my attention and that was Father Martin Lasarte, a hand picked representative of Francis, who seemed to have more sense than most when it came to the issues at hand.

Unlike the partisans who pitched battle during the Synod, Lasarte recognised that the Church's problems are much deeper than the superficial issues blathered about in the media. Lasarte recognised that Catholic Church seems to have a serious problem with the laity, regarding them as sort of half-Christians, with the consecrated life being the only true "authentic" Christianity. And, as Lasarte recognises, this "operational" view has devastated the life of the Church.

While many may balk at the proposition, in understanding the trajectory of modern catholic history its useful to think of the Catholic Church as being sociologically similar to the Communist party of the USSR. There was Big Brother (Pope), the Inner Party (Curia), Outer Party (Clergy) and the Proletariat (The faithful). The Party was always right and it was the role of the Proletariat to follow instructions......or else, especially in Pre V2 (Stalinist) times.

Ask any old Commie(Trad) what killed the Soviet Union and they'll all point the finger to Gorbachev, their John XXIII, who initiated the policy of Glasnost and Perestroika, the Soviet Union's version of Vatican II. And they would be right since the system, as it was envisaged, left no room for independent action within it. It also needs to be remembered that many of the men who initiated the policy of Perestroika weren't sentimentalists, rather they could see that they were being out-competed by the West (Modernism) and they had to reform if they were to survive.

Following the collapse of the Soviet system it was felt by all the boffins at Harvard that all one had to do to encourage the flourishing of the free market in Russia was to enshrine property rights, liquidate inefficient industries and lower taxes and all would be hunky dory. But what was never considered is the fact that how do you produce a free market in a people who were for generations deliberately prosecuted for showing any entrepreneurial spirit and who were continually weaned on the nipple of state managerialism. What eighty years of the soviet experience had produced is an economically docile and inept man who had no skills at operating in a free market, and when the market was finally liberalised the only people who had actual authority and initiative made off like bandits, impoverishing the rest of the country.

Likewise, Catholic glasnost came about at the same time as the cultural revolution of the Sixties, and catholic laymen, much like "freed" soviet workers, got to fend for themselves  in the "free market of ideas" with the same observed results. When you start thinking about it the parallels are very eerie.

The reason why perestroika failed to produce the expected benefits in the Soviet Union is because the Stalinist/Leninist system had wiped out the entrepreneurial spirit that is vital in the formation of small to medium businesses, the backbone of any capitalist system. Likewise, the Catholic system had wiped out any form of spiritual entrepreneurialism leaving the laity open to Modernity.  The theologians conflated obedience with faith. and failed to recognise a very deep weakness of the Church.

Lasarte recognises that arguing about all the other stuff is useless unless the fundamentals are sorted out first. He also lists several instances where because of circumstances, the laity were able to build thriving Christian communities in the absence of clergy and one certainly gets the impression that Church governance rather than lay "disobedience" may be more of an issue.   For those who are interested, here are a few pertinent links. 

Amazon Synod: Are married priests really a solution? 

Amazon Synod: New paths and pastoral illnesses (Part Two) 

Evaluating the Synod for the Amazon: Fr Lasarte’s ten ‘likes’ and nine ‘dislikes’


My own thoughts are that any Christian revival of the West is going to be lay led, I also imagine that it will be strongly opposed by large sections of the Clergy.




Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Wages of Monophorism



 “Monophorism” was Blondel's term for a reigning clerical authoritarianism which on principle refused to recognize that grace can be at work from below. 

One of things which you become aware of when you start digging into theology is that some guys foresaw the current apostasy from miles away.  Maurice Blondel was one of these and recognised that the traditional model of "Priests Smart and People dumb" i.e. Monophorism,  devastated the interior spirituality of the laity and facilitated the destruction of the faith.  Now, while many of the laity could be "good" under this model,  it was a goodness of docility and obedience. The layman was not meant to have ideas or internal volition and the faith was to be received and not really thought about and it produced a sort of spiritual infantilism which as able to lapse if the strong parent went missing.

The Catholic Church under this model resembled a typical World War 1/Soviet Era combat formation. Strongly disciplined and led by the general. A battle plan was drawn and the soldier was expected to advance according to the plan;  individual initiative being frowned upon, especially by the lower ranks, since everything had been worked out and co-ordinated by the staff officers.  The innovators of stormtroop tactics immediately recognised  that there was a weak-point with this approach: if you could decapitate the leadership, then the troops would be helpless and easily destroyed. Sure, there would be pockets of strong resistance, but without command from the top many of the troops would simply surrender and walk away. There was no defence-in-depth.

Protestantism, especially in its evangelical versions, avoided this approach and tended to stress the layman's strong personal relationship with Christ and left the individual to their own Christianity. As this blog has mentioned, there are many faults with this approach but it does tend to produce a more autonomous Christian than traditional Catholicism does.

To illustrate what I mean here are two bits of data from Pew Research. The first, graph compares the commitment gap between Catholics and Protestants in South America. The metric of commitment--a reasonable one in my opinion--being attendance at regular Church services and praying daily.  From the table we can see that in every country in South America, Protestants out perform Catholics by this metric.




The second table, looks at approval of same sex "marriage" by religious denomination in the U.S. The data is pretty damning for U.S. Catholics. Mainline Protestant denominations are marginally worse but not by much. However , those "dumb" Evangelical Christians appear to have views which have a far better correlation with Biblical views of homosexuality. What gives?

One of the things about Protestantism is that it a religion strongly associated with the bourgeoisie. And one of the the thing about bourgeois society it the strong emphasis it places on individual act and responsibility. Protestant societies encourage more individual autonomy and internal locus of control. What this means is that although Protestants may think badly--with all the problems that brings-- they think for themselves. Paradoxically, "simplistic" Protestants who take the Bible literally are quite likely to be its strongest adherents as they can't "explain away" Biblical imperatives to conform with contemporary fashions.

In my opinion, Catholics can only provide a strong pushback against the Pozz  only if they are capably led and strongly disciplined. When the leadership is effectively "decapitated" the average Catholic lacks the internal resilience to push back against it. This would--in a way--seem to shore up the arguments of the Traditionalists who see Vatican Two as the great mistake of Catholicism. Vatican II gave the spiritually-infantile freedom........with predictable consequences.

See, the thing to understand is that Catholicism prior to Vatican II, despite all of it's window dressing  and railing against Modernism was actually Modernist itself and was unwittingly encouraging the production of Mass-Man and it's hard to fight the thing when you're the thing itself.

Let me explain by way of uncomfortable analogy.

Life inside the Soviet Union Catholic Church was strongly controlled by the clergy Party. Information was heavily censored filtered, lest the laity workers be corrupted. The Papacy Party was always right and it was the duty of the worker to obey the party and deviation from the party line sent the worker to Hell Siberia.

The underlying principle at play here was the if the Church Party could engineer a society where it could control what the laity workers were exposed to and protect them from bad ideas they could engineer a faithful Catholic Worker through social engineering. Just as the modern degeneracy feels that through appropriate social engineering and censorship it can create the soytopia, traditional Catholicism felt as long as it had the reigns of power it could create its own version of the same.

Astute observers will note that this is the Leftist project in a nutshell. Once you start looking into it, the similarities in social structure and command between Communism and Pre-Vatican II Catholicism are uncomfortably close.

So, in a sense, the critics of Vatican Two are right: "relaxing the system"  bought the whole house down in the same way that Perestroika eventually destroyed the Soviet Union.  The old System only worked under strong social control.  The problem for the wistful trads is that although they may dream for a return of the pre-Vatican II Church, the social and cultural contingencies that shored up the authoritarian societies of the past have been undercut by the phenomenon of modernity. As Franco's Spain, De Valera's Ireland and Salazar's Portugal have shown, Integralist societies rapidly collapse into "Modernity" as soon as the thumbscrews are taken off. Years of integralism did not produce the internal resilience to protect against the Pozz, and paradoxically may have created the preconditions for its rapid adoption.

On the other hand, despite the being exposed to the cultural sewer that is the contemporary West, Evangelical Protestants tend to be holding firm.

It is my opinion that the Vatican Two would have been far more successful if the Church gradually relaxed its rules and "softly" Protestantised the Church but this is just speculation and beyond the scope of this current post.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Catholic NPC-ism




As I have said before, any renewal of Western Society is only going to come about from a renewal of the Christian religion and therefore an understanding of why it "failed" is important in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes of the past. And one of the big mistakes, at least for Catholics, has been the religious approach to the laity which encourages their infantilisation and passivity.

In the previous post commentator John Rockwell said:
@Social Pathologist
"Heavy-handed authoritarianism which never admits its mistakes and has the effect of puffing up the leaders and infantilizing the subjects.

This is a complex topic but I think you're largely right here. An infantilized laity is not only a spiritually dead one but one also prone to capture by other ideologies."

This sort of thing is characteristic of Communist and other forms of super-centralized socialist regimes. [Ed]

Seeking to turn adult subjects back into children who do not have the agency to act in a responsible and competent manner as well as into programmable automations.

Akin to NPCs in video games which act only according to script and unable to change their routines.
I think that John Rockwell is absolutely right. Until recently, one of the things that Catholic Trads/Ultramontanists would be at pains of emphasising is the importance of of obedience to Papal teaching by virtue of his authority. The Catholic laity was meant to show an Obsequium Religiosum when it came to religious instruction by his ecclesiastical superiors. It being defined as:
Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra;[ED: even when he could be wrong] that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.*
The good Catholic was not meant to have any active relationship with the faith, his job was to let the Pope do his thinking for him even in instances where the Pope could be wrong. Here's George Orwell, in 1984,  expressing pretty much same concept:
“Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not omnipotent and the party is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts. The keyword here is BLACKWHITE. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”

Big Brother may not have called it Obsequium Religiosum but he wanted submission of the mind and will. 

Really makes you think.



*The topic of conscience is a complex one, and although Ultramontainsts like to play it down, the Catholic has a duty to conscience first and then to the Pope. Though, in practice--i.e. most of the Pre V2 Church--this was discouraged.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Rethinking Protestantism



I think that it is a fairly standard trope in neoreactionary circles to lay the blame of modern Liberalism at the feet of Protestantism and I must admit that I'm in broad agreement with this position. Once you ditch the idea of an objective truth (as Catholicism understands it) you're left with subjective truth which results in every man being his own Pope.  Soon enough, in such society, serious differences of opinion will appear and in order to practically stop that society from tearing itself apart you have to allow some tolerance of opinion. 

Now a common sense, or prima facie reading of the Bible does put some limits on what is tolerated, and a cursory reading of history will show that, by and large, until recently mainline Protestantism did not permit the degeneracy that is about us. i.e.  a simple "textual" reading of the Bible provided protections against excessive tolerance. However with the delegitimisation  of "traditional" interpretations of the Bible through modern biblical scholarship, democratic idealism and the progression of atheism , these "brakes" on tolerance evaporated.  Dechristianised Protestant society, while having the habit of tolerance, has lost its limiting mechanism----and we see the ruins about us.

I think that this brief sketch outlines the one of the main arguments against Protestantism as put forward by Catholic and reactionary authors, and an objective student of this subject will have to admit that they have a point.  However, I think that while this analysis is correct, it misses a proper understanding of the role that Protestantism has played in the development of Christianity. And I'm increasingly of the opinion that Christianity's survival in modernity may in large part due to its existence.

One of the things that strikes the observer of Catholicism is its strong sense of tradition and its resistance to change. Now, of course, a lot of this is due to the nature of Catholic theology but I think the institutional nature of the church plays a large role here as well. The lay observer, when reflecting on the current sexual abuse crisis, is struck by the fact of how the Church was unable to spontaneously institute the appropriate changes in governance and acknowledge fault, but rather had to be dragged "kicking and screaming" into recognising that it had a problem. The institution simply does not move.

It is said that God permits lesser evils so that greater ones will be avoided. When Luther nailed his thesis on the Church door he wasn't intending to break from the Church, but that's the way it turned out, and a large part of it was due to the institutional inertia of the Church in dealing with the problems of the time. Trent, when it finally came along, corrected many Protestant errors but it also honored may of its criticisms.  But its important to note that without Protestantism there would have been no Trent, and all of the reforms it instituted.   What I'm trying to say is that the institutional nature of the Church is reactive rather than proactive and without the Protestant push, it's unlikely that the Church would have spontaneously self corrected. God may have not wanted the Church to split but the clergy was incapable of self-generating reform, it needed Protestantism's dynamism to do that.

Scholars, looking at the relationship between modernity and Catholicism, have noted that Church's position was oppositional and other worldly, and until recently, it encouraged a culture apart from modernity. Catholicism's approach to modernity was literally defensive hoping for modernity to collapse and for medievalism to return.  Given that modernity did not fail and the fact that the Churhc did not have the "in house" skills to attack it meaningfully and it's no surprise that the Catholicism in the West collapsed suddenly with Vatican II, the Church pulled down the ramparts without going on the attack--it didn't know how to--and was simply overwhelmed.

Protestantism, unlike Catholicism,  did have a history of engaging with modernity.  England never went as feral as France and the Victorian Age was one of religious  piety with great social reform. Christianity in the Victorian Anglosphere was respectable and modern and it was able to achieve a successful transformative arrangement with modernity. Still, it ultimately suffered from the weakness of Protestantism and self-destructed because it could not filter the good ideas from the bad, it lacked a governing authority.

In my opinion, Christian Liberalism was the high point of the Protestant engagement with Modernity  and which gave us the marvelous Belle Epoque. However, Protestantism's inability to draw the line saw that liberalism degrade into the modern liberalism about us.

Staring at history from an Olympian perspective, one can think of Protestantism as an incubator of Christian ideas which served as an antidote to the institutional inertia of the Catholic Church which seemed to be happy to sit on the sidelines and complain. Some of these ideas;  like the abolition of slavery, religious tolerance, work ethic,  less reliance on the confessional, etc. were very good. The Catholic Church may have thundered anathemas at the Protestants but it was they who managed to achieve some kind of temporary workable synthesis with modernity, something the Catholics still can't do. The Church may have held the deposit of the faith but it was the "sound" Protestants who took it out to the field.

And there is no doubt that the success of Protestant culture had profound influence on Catholic culture which was able to absorb some of the ideas through cultural diffusion rather than explicit agreement. Newman's ideas on the freedom of conscience come straight from the Protestant playbook and have now become part of the "deposit of faith". When he converted he bought some of his Protestantism with him and the Church incorporated it. As I see it, the only way that Catholicism will be able to engage with modernism meaningfully is if it incorporates the "best bits" of Protestantism within it's body of faith.


What I'm trying to say is that from a big picture perspective, the "freedom" of Protestantism balanced the institutional inertia of Catholicism and gave Christianity--as a whole--the ability to adapt to the modern world in a way which would have been incapable had the Church remained in control: its institutional inertia--by the clergy and traditionalists-- being way too strong to overcome "in house." Protestantism provided the Christian space for innovation which produced both good and bad developments with the Catholic Church "filtering" and incorporating  the ideas when they were proven.

As G. K. Chesterton said:

"In all probability, all that is best in Protestantism will only survive in Catholicism; and in that sense all Catholics will still be Puritans when all Puritans are Pagans."




Sunday, September 08, 2019

Apologia

I wish to apologise to my long suffering readers and to the commentators from my previous post.  Our friends at Google managed to lock me out of my account while I was in Europe and was unable to gain access to the blog.

With regard to the failed appeal by Cardinal George Pell, I'd like to make a few comments.

Firstly, I really wish to see all paedophiles punished, no matter what faction of the Church they belong to.

Secondly; saying that, in my opinion George Pell is innocent. While he was archbishop here in Melbourne, I used to go the Cathedral--with my young children-- where he said Mass. To the best of my memory, he was always accompanied by an entourage and I find the claims made by his accuser simply unbelievable. The fact that there were near a dozen other witnesses--whom the court chose to ignore--who also testified to the impossibility of the charge says quite a lot about the nature of the trial and the legal system here in Victoria.

Serious legal scholars here in Australia are concerned about the verdict because it was a conviction secured without any corroborating evidence. It was simply the Accuser's word against the Defendant. Unfortunately, here in Australia, our legal profession has been radicalised and the need for evidence in securing a conviction is increasingly becoming optional with the predictable miscarriages of Justice.

The two hundred page dissent by Justice Weinberg is not so much a dissent as a defence of Pell and will be considered in any appeal.

Prior to his conviction, George Pell was continually harassed by the media, particularly by our own version of the New York Times, The Age, which did all it could to smear him. However, the Archbishop did not do himself any favours. He has an imperious manner--I personally think he might be a tiny bit on the spectrum--which alienates people, has criticised the homosexual community, and has been a fierce advocate for conservative Christianity. This earned him no favours with the progressive governing class which "owns" this state and which would love to see a high ranking prelate "taken down". There have been some irregularities in the police prosecution which makes me think that there is more to this than meets the eye.

In my mind, there is a bit of God's handiwork in his conviction. Pell was a huge impediment to Francis and part of the conservative faction "against" him.  I'm not a big fan of Francis but I recognise that he has been sent to "shake up" an institution that needed shaking up. By putting Pell in jail, a formidable opponent to Francis is neutralised, the Church gets a chance to reform and Australia will get another saint. I have a strong suspicion that Pell will die/be murdered in jail and then he will unambiguously be discovered to be innocent. It will be too late for Pell but it will go a long way towards rehabilitating the Church.

The case particularly resonates with myself. I work as a General Practitioner here in Australia-not a psychiatrist--and the possibility that I could find myself in the same situation as the Archbishop haunts me. It's the nature of my work to ask intimate questions and perform intimate examinations. As the law operates here in Victoria, it's quite possible that twenty years from now that someone could claim that I had sexually assaulted them and it would be simply an issue of my word vs theirs. There will be no need for evidence.  If the accuser is a woman, as current legal practice stands, I'm guilty till proven innocent. Such is the nature of modern jurisprudence here in the "progressive" state of Victoria.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Christian Buddhism IV

Service announcement: It's another religious post. In case people are wondering why I'm sticking to this theme at the moment it's because in this blog's opinion,  that the reason why the West is failing is because of the collapse of religion.  The reason why this is important is because politics is downstream from culture, with religion playing a huge role in the formation of it. Ergo, bad religion, bad culture, bad politics.

Now back to our regular programming.
..........................................................................
One of the big themes in Chesterton's works is the notion of identity being a product of boundaries and limits. He understood that in order for identity to exist their had to be some kind of differentiation between between parties and recognized that one of the curious factors of traditional Christianity is that it emphasised this differences while maintaining a unity.  Pre-Modern Christianity was pro-identity:
If any one wants a modern proof of all this, let him consider the curious fact that, under Christianity, Europe (while remaining a unity) has broken up into individual nations. Patriotism is a perfect example of this deliberate balancing of one emphasis against another emphasis. The instinct of the Pagan empire would have said, "You shall all be Roman citizens, and grow alike; let the German grow less slow and reverent; the Frenchmen less experimental and swift." But the instinct of Christian Europe says, "Let the German remain slow and reverent, that the Frenchman may the more safely be swift and experimental. We will make an equipoise out of these excesses. The absurdity called Germany shall correct the insanity called France."
Chesterton recognised that Buddhism was the total opposite of this. In Buddhist metaphysics, Nirvana is achieved when the self is "let go" and the individual is absorbed into the universe. i.e perfection is achieved through the loss of personality and identity. What's interesting though, is that while Christianity does not officially share an ideology with Buddhism some of its ascetic and modern elements approach this same position in practice if not theory.  The concept of Humility, for example, when pushed too far,  leads to an effective Buddhism. All cloaked under a legitimate Christian "orthodoxy":
It is just here that Buddhism is on the side of modern pantheism and immanence. And it is just here that Christianity is on the side of humanity and liberty and love. Love desires personality; therefore love desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say "little children love one another" rather than to tell one large person to love himself. This is the intellectual abyss between Buddhism and Christianity; that for the Buddhist or Theosophist personality is the fall of man, for the Christian it is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea. The world-soul of the Theosophists asks man to love it only in order that man may throw himself into it. But the divine centre of Christianity actually threw man out of it in order that he might love it. The oriental deity is like a giant who should have lost his leg or hand and be always seeking to find it; but the Christian power is like some giant who in a strange generosity should cut off his right hand, so that it might of its own accord shake hands with him. We come back to the same tireless note touching the nature of Christianity; all modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the universe into living souls. But according to orthodox Christianity this separation between God and man is sacred, because this is eternal. That a man may love God it is necessary that there should be not only a God to be loved, but a man to love him. All those vague theosophical minds for whom the universe is an immense melting-pot are exactly the minds which shrink instinctively from that earthquake saying of our Gospels, which declare that the Son of God came not with peace but with a sundering sword. The saying rings entirely true even considered as what it obviously is; the statement that any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate. It is as true of democratic fraternity as a divine love; sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy; but real love has always ended in bloodshed. Yet there is another and yet more awful truth behind the obvious meaning of this utterance of our Lord. According to Himself the Son was a sword separating brother and brother that they should for an aeon hate each other. But the Father also was a sword, which in the black beginning separated brother and brother, so that they should love each other at last.
I don't think that the profundity of this statement is fully appreciated by many and is not even considered in contemporary Christianity, yet I think it strikes at the core of the malaise that is affecting it.  I'm going to go out on a limb here but it is my current opinion that contemporary Christianity, which is perhaps the worst blend of the old and the new,  has morphed into a force which destroys personality and identity just like Buddhism. In wanting all men to be Christ-like it wants them to stop being who they are so that they can be more like Christ. It's one thing to imitate the habits and virtues of a man, its quite another to assume his identity.  Instead of Christianity pushing  men towards being perfect versions of themselves--perfection being only possible through the sacrifice of Christ-- it continually pushes men to become copies of Christ: imperfect clones of Him.  Personality is thus destroyed and everyone becomes a "generic" Christian. We are all absorbed into the great modern Christ-Buddha. And yet this is not the way it is meant to be. Christ called his disciples friends and you cannot be friends with yourself.

Take for example the refugee crisis where this type of thinking is particularly evident. Under the modern schema we are told to see the face of Christ in all refugees and act accordingly. However this approach totally ignores the concrete realities of each and every person. Each refugee is made into an abstraction from which a generic solution is applied. There is no distinction between the man fleeing war, the economic refugee or the terrorist, as their particular circumstances are of no significance. None of the "refugees" has a personality or particular story as they have all been made Christ-like. The siege of Vienna would not have been won on these terms.

Or take nationalism, something the Church seems to have taken a quite forceful stand against recently. Until modern times, it was taken for granted that a good man would be proud of his country, its people and its history. Patriotism was seen as a virtue and yet it is now seen as a vice.
Human unity is a huge and overwhelming truth, in the face of which all differences of continent or country are flattened out. European unity is an ancient fundamental and sometimes invisible truth, which every white man will discover if he meets another white man in Central Africa or unpenetrated Tibet. But national unity is a truth; and a truth which cannot, must not, and will not be denied, but chiefly for these very reasons - that nationality is human and that nationality is European. The man who forgets nationality instantly becomes less human and less European. He seems somehow to have turned into a walking abstraction, a resolution of some committee, a programme of some political movement, [ED: or theological trend] and to be by some unmistakable transformation, striking chill like the touch of a fish, less of a living man. The European man is a man through his patriotism and the particular civilization of his people. The cosmopolitan is not a European, still less a good European. He is a traveller in Europe, as if he were a tourist from the moon. In other words, what has happened is this; that for good or evil, European history has produced European nations by a European process; they are the organs of the organic life of our race, at least in recent times; and unless we receive our natural European inheritance through those natural organs, we do not really receive it at all. We receive something else; a priggish and provincial abstraction, invented by a few modern and more or less ignorant men. So long as those organs are the only organs of a living tradition, we must live by them; and it is true to say that the time has not yet come for all the nations living by a tradition that they can all hold and inherit together. It means finding something that good men love even more than they love their country. And modern Europe has not got it yet.
Traditionalists tend to blame the changes in the Church upon Vatican Two and yet any  cursory study which will show that these problems have been in the Church for a long while. A lot of it is latent Manichaenism. These things were bubbling along unnoticed in traditional agrarian society and  I think it took modernity to bring them to the surface.  The more I look into this the more I think that the Church is in the grip of a heresy akin to Buddhism and it's like Arian times again.