Friday, December 9, 2016

Except The Lord Build the House, They Labor in Vain that Build It

I think this line from the Book of Proverbs expresses a very profound truth.

I have been surveying the ideological landscape recently, and I'm struck constantly by the realisation; if somebody rejects God, I can't consider them an ally, whatever else I might agree with them on.

I should add that when I say 'reject God', I'm not talking about people who are not believers but who are very respectful towards religion. Such people, I think, can be allies. But I could never consider a doctrinaire atheist an ally, no matter how much I agreed with him on every other subject.

And also this; if Christianity is just a component of a worldview, it's not enough. Christianity has to be the source of a worldview. It can't be "Christianity as well". We can't take off our Christian hat and put on another hat, even momentarily.

This is why, even though I'm coming to accept I will always be an Irish nationalist (and a nationalist in terms of my philosophy of international relations), it really is a Catholic nationalism. I don't expect Ireland to be a confessional state, but a secular Ireland means nothing to me. An Irish patriot who is an ardent athest, or even just an ardent secularist-- which pretty much describes most of Sinn Féin-- is not my ally, even when it comes to nationalism.

The result of making God 'optional', in my view, can be seen in the history of Irish nationalism. The radical strain of Irish nationalism-- the one which looked back to the United Irishman, who in turn took inspiration from the French Revolution-- went from 'non-sectarian' to anti-religious within a few generations.

When I say 'a Catholic Ireland', I am talking about society rather than state-- though I believe a Catholic society leads to a Catholic state anyway, as it did in the early decades of Irish independence. But I should add that the Catholic and nationalist Ireland I would like to see is one that would as far as possible accommodate (and not just tolerate) religious and ethnic minorities, too. (Although victimology and resentment would not be rewarded in any way.)

There is a massive backlash against political correctness and 'social justice warriors' right now, one with which I entirely sympathise. Obviously, I can't agree with many people who are a part of it. I can't agree with the white nationalists and the 'Alt Right', nor can I agree with the sceptic libertarians or classical liberals where they reject God.

One figure I do admire very much, however, is Milo Yiannapoulous. I certainly disagree with him about many things-- I don't agree with his view that humour is intrinsically transgressive or subversive (come to think of it, that might make an interesting blog post), I don't like his use of bad language, and obviously I think his homosexual lifestyle is immoral (to be fair, he defends Christians who think so). There are quite a few other areas where I disagree as well. But, after significant caution at first, I have eventually come to think of him as one of the good guys. The work he's doing is very important-- sometimes you need a bulldozer in order to build.

And the main reason I think of him as one of the good guys despite these points of disagreement is, he professes a belief in God. He's a Catholic, although obviously not living a Catholic life. He says his faith is developing so who knows how that will work out in the future? I think his professed faith is even more admirable considering the kind of constituency he is appealing to, who are very often withering towards religious belief-- indeed, I have seen him taken to task for it in many videos, by people who agree with him on most other things

Here's another thing. I've started re-reading The Pickwick Papers, and a passage from Dickens's preface is very relevant to this subject:

Lest there be any well-intentioned persons who do not perceive the difference between religion and the cant of religion, piety and the pretence of piety, a humble reverence for the great truths of Scripture and an audacious and offensive obtrusion of its letter and not its spirit in the commonest dissensions and meanest affairs of life, let them understand that it is always the latter, and never the former, which is satirized here.

With all due respect to Dickens's genius and goodness, this won't do. This is the beginning of religious indifferentism, which is the beginning of agnosticism, which is the beginning of atheism and hatred of God. Discreet religion is not religion at all-- or at last, it is a religion doomed to decay.

When people really care about something, they care about the letter and the fine details, not just the 'spirit'. And they talk about it. And it pervades even 'the meanest affairs of life' for them. Or are we to believe that medieval England, with its pious popular songs and its mystery plays and so forth, was less 'truly' Christian than Victorian England? That seems ridiculous to me. The sort of discreet Christianity to which Dickens subscribed can never survive two or three generations-- it will either be replaced by a full-blooded Christianity, or be discarded altogether.

1 comment:

  1. "...if Christianity is just a component of a worldview, it's not enough. Christianity has to be the source of a worldview."

    Yes, the older I get, the truer this, and the 'Unless the Lord Build the House' proverb seems. It can be easy for a cradle Catholic to forget how different life is for people outside the Church. In many ways it is just the same... but built on a quite different foundation.