Six years ago, Father Andrew Phillips published an important essay entitled ‘Denormanization’ (Orthodox England, Vol. 11, No.1, Sept. 2007, http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/mag/oe11_1.pdf). In it he wrote of how the culture of the French-Viking Normans that was imposed on
England in 1066 A. D. must be removed if is ever to be herself again. England
The South faces a similar challenge, for a foreign culture was imposed on her by the secular Puritans of New England after the War of Northern Aggression was concluded, and the Yankee project of ‘reconstructing’ her has continued unabated up to the present time. Like
, the South too must rid herself of these foreign elements, must undergo depuritanization, if she is ever to be truly herself. England
Using Fr Andrew’s essay as a guide, let the South consider how she may accomplish this.
The South must put away everything foreign to the spirit of Christianity (‘Denormanization’, p. 1) that she has inherited from
New England. This includes, among other things,
-Arrogance - the belief that the
of which she is a part is the ‘greatest nation the world has ever known’; America
-Meddling - because America is so virtuous, she has the right to force her way of life onto others who are still wandering in the darkness, or who may be perceived as threatening the American way of life;
-Love of money - making the accumulation of money and comfort the chief ends of life;
-Selfish individualism - seeing man as a being with no vital connections to any others, inward or outward, spiritual or physical, free to develop himself in any way he pleases so long as he doesn’t harm anyone;
-Scientific rationalism - there is no knowledge higher than what can be perceived by the senses through empirical experimentation and expressed mathematically. All God-given revelation is irrelevant; and
-Conquering nature - the belief that God is not present in His creation in any way; that the creation is merely dead matter to be exploited by humans for building the industrial/technological
Kingdom of Man.
At the root of all these and other vices is self-love (a strong Puritan trait - see, e.g., 'Two Diarists' by Richard Weaver, In Defense of Tradition, Liberty Fund, 2000, pgs. 720-48), as St Maximus the Confessor points out. ‘For from it are produced the three principle thoughts of desire: those of gluttony, avarice, and self-esteem . . . . All the rest . . . are consequent upon one or other of these three . . . . He who cuts off [the passion of self-love], cuts off at the same time all the passions that come from it’ (Four Hundred Texts on Love, Third Century, 56-57, in The Philokalia, Vol. 2, London: Faber & Faber, 1981, p. 92; quoted in ‘Teachings and Homilies of St. Gabriel, Elder of the Seven Lakes Monastery’, 2: On Humility, The Orthodox Word, Vol. 47, No. 6 (281), Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Press, Nov.-Dec. 2011, p. 268).
Gluttony being the preeminent native Southern vice from the three mentioned by St Maximus, she has nevertheless taken into herself the other two by way of the Puritan conquest. But all must be uprooted from Southern soil for the true South to grow unhindered, through love of God and neighbor and the creation.
Some Southern virtues that are in accord with Christianity are essentially the same as those Fr Andrew lists for
. This should surprise no one, as Southern culture is largely sprung from English culture: England
On the other hand, there are many values, which are said to be English, which can be baptised into the Church. For example, on the positive side, the love of (genuine) tradition, patriotism, the love of the countryside and gardens, loyalty, sobriety, discretion, good taste, gentle humour, reserve and politeness are all values which gel very well with the Church (‘Denormanization’, p. 1).
But let sectarianism be avoided (‘Denormanization’, p. 2), the voice that whispers Discord among kith and kin in the South, that demands that the cultural contributions of one’s particular forefathers - be they Celtic, English, African, etc. - and theirs alone have made the South what she is.
Therefore ought each and all to cultivate a respect for, knowledge, and use of the best parts of the several cultures that make up the South’s own unique culture that are in accord with Christianity, whether the ‘liturgical language of the King James Bible’ (‘Denormanization’, p. 2); the loyalty to the extended family of the Irish and Scottish; the monasticism of Ireland, Northern Africa, and France (one of the best sources of charity and Christian education, among other benefits); the rich literary history of ancient Greece and Rome, the Church Fathers, the British and Irish Isles, etc.; and so forth.
Nor, of course, should the best of her own Christian culture be forgotten and lie fallow: her own praiseworthy literary works, agrarian way of life, ballads and other musical forms, finding a balance between the rights and duties of the individual and the community, respect for hierarchy, rejection of fads, love of the Bible, etc.
Ultimately, depuritanization means ‘living the Orthodox Christian Faith in the [Southern] context in which the Lord has placed us’ (‘Denormanization’, p. 3). This is not to say that Protestants and Catholics are barred from Heaven; only that those denominations are distortions of the Ancient Faith that will likewise produce distortions in any Southern culture that grows from them. Only in the Orthodox Faith will the true South reveal herself. For only the purity of Orthodox Christianity will provide the supernatural, otherworldly love, holiness, strength, wisdom, and wholeness of vision to overcome the heretical Puritan ideology and all other falsehoods.
What fruit the pure Christian Faith will bring forth from the Southern people in the Southern land - one longs to see.
The pervasiveness of the Puritan cultural conquest of the South will be clearly seen tomorrow in the unquestioned celebration by Southerners of one of the high feast days of Yankeedom: Thanksgiving, which concerns their founding fathers, not the South’s.
She ought not to bear ill-will toward her New England cousins for this or for any other wrong visited upon her (this too is unchristian), but it is an illustration of how long her journey will be if the South really does wish to be more than a colony of Boston or New York City.