Engaging in the ‘Culture Wars’, or striving to maintain the good name of western and Christian civilization, we run the risk of pushing us over a line, forgetting our primary purpose and losing the plot. Someone once defined a fanatic as a person who, having once forgotten his original purpose, redoubles his efforts! We must be alert and keep our ultimate objective in focus: fight hard, but never engage in mean-spirited carping at our opponents.
Rudyard Kipling put the following into the mouth of an old soldier:
If England were as England seems,
and not the England of our dreams,
but only putty, brass and paint,
‘ow quick we’d chuck ‘er!
…But she ain’t!
Substitute England for your own country, gentle Reader, and this little verse works for everyone, and for every good cause: every human society is flawed, sometimes grievously, but each is much bigger and greater than the sum of its flaws. The essence of patriotism is to love one’s country or culture, warts and all, recognizing its greatness, without despising others.
Nationalism, on the other hand, can be self-vaunting, arrogant, cruel and bullying. It may start life as patriotism, but all too often it crosses the line and becomes brutish. It thrives on its own imagined superiority over others. The repulsive tyrannies of the twentieth century offer ample proof.
So is it a good idea to talk about Culture Wars at all? Are we crossing a line by using the terminology of warfare? I don’t think so. C S Lewis and others have spoken of the special vocation of the Christian Soldier. England’s late Sir Roger Scruton, Canada’s Jordan Peterson, Australia’s Kevin Donnelly (to name a few of very many) have all been hard-fighting warriors on the side of traditional culture. But nothing in their work implies a contempt for other nations and cultures. They fight hard but clean. Their goal is not to put down other cultures, but to affirm the value of their own. Indeed we have no grounds for taking any other position for, as Christopher Dawson himself reminds us, ‘Christianity is not bound up with any particular race or culture. It is neither of the East or of the West, but has a universal mission to the human race as a whole…’
Christ and all his apostles were Asians, not Europeans. For 500 years the epicentre of Christianity lay over the Middle East, only to move westwards after the rise of Islam, not because it had special affinities with the West, but because it had been displaced. For the next 1500 years Christianity has been chiefly associated with the West, where it gave rise to some (I would say all, but must be cautious) of the West’s greatest achievements. Today the epicentre of the Christian faith appears to be moving southwards towards Africa, whose countless faithful Christians, hardened by persecution and suffering, are holding the torch high and shaming us for our lukewarmness.
IN DEFENCE OF MISSIONARIES (continued)
I’m grateful for a good deal of positive feedback on the last lead topic. (To clarify, a few words dropped out at the beginning of the fourth paragraph: it is a reference to my attendance at church services in Samoa.)
Here’s a very full evaluation of the work done by Catholic Missions to the Aboriginals of Australia by reader Prof James Franklin. This survey paints a picture light years away from the populist notion of missionaries as oppressors.
Another reader, Dr Chris Wortham writes:
‘Chris Magazda was lucky enough to be educated at the St Augustine’s Mission in Penhalonga, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia): he was one of the very small but lucky group of indigenous students to gain a full education at that time. He proved to be an outstanding student in the biological sciences and went on to specialise in ichthyology. He studied abroad and became internationally famous. He is also a very fine poet. In 2007, the year in which he retired, Chris Magadza was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Can there be better testimony to the wonderful work of many missionaries of multiple denominations in that part of the world? Following in his footsteps of fame, his elder daughter, Shelagh Magadza, became Director of the Perth International Arts Festival and she now heads the New Zealand Arts Festival. She has served in these roles with great distinction.’
He adds: ‘such cases illustrate the expanding aura of spiritual and cultural growth that has emerged from missionary education.’
This important article was written by a transgender man who transitioned five years ago. What’s important about it is that he is deeply concerned about the pressure from woke-driven social media and peer pressure on young people to make hasty and immature decisions about their future. Attempts to reverse this trend are scorned and even forbidden by PC domination of the scene.
Continuing lockdowns cast doubt on the viability of our summer schools, but we’ll certainly run them if there are sufficient takers. At present we’ve had enough interest in both the Philosophy and Latin schools to make them viable (though not Greek). I’d very much like to augment our numbers to provide some certainty. Do please write to me at once if you’d like to join any of our classes. We should be in a position to make a firm commitment by early November.
I’ve given much thought to teaching the language classes on zoom, but have decided that I lack the resources and skills to carry it off. On the other hand we are looking at ways to present some key parts of the philosophy school via zoom.