Monday, July 6, 2015

A Christian Culture

T. S. Eliot once said that culture is the incarnation of religion (Notes towards a Definition of Culture).  This is a good beginning but still a bit lacking.  Prof Christopher Dawson sharpens this when he says, ‘ . . . culture is the necessary social discipline which subserves the higher ends of the spiritual life.’  In other words, ‘true culture is the cultivation of the soul—the discipline of salvation . . .’  (Religion and Culture, Washington, D. C.: Catholic U. of America Press, 2013 [1948], p. 147).

Therefore, in any theod (country) that considers itself to be truly Christian, the culture - all the material goods and institutions and arts and so on - should help the leod (people) in some way to attain communion with God, cultivate virtue, and contribute in general to the healing of soul and body.

So how does the culture of ‘America’, one of the pinnacles of antiChristian humanism yet somehow at the same time the greatest Christian country on earth, measure up against these standards?

In goldways (economics), it promotes greed and selfishness (what is called ‘enlightened self-interest’).

In governingways, its two-party, democratic electoral system promotes hatred, bitterness, and mistrust among the leod (people).

In tilthways (farming), it promotes ruthless exploitation of the land and abuse of animals.

In craftways (technology), it promotes pride in man’s achievements and his ability to ‘conquer nature’, and fosters forgetfulness of God through constant streaming of music, movies, etc.

In artways, it promotes vices of all kinds: impiety towards God and parents, sexual impurity, violence, unclean speech, etc.

In restingways (leisure), it promotes idolatry of athletes and actors and actresses, rudeness and drunkenness at sporting events, and heedlessness by watching too much television.

None of these help a man work out his salvation quietly, with love for God, other men, and all the creation.  None, then, should call the [u]nited States a Christian country (though we are quick to add that there remain many faithful Christians within the bounds of the States despite all this gloom).

Seeing all this, we say, Run, Southrons, from America, the latest Evil Empire to arise in the world.  Hasten, Southern brothers and sisters, to follow the vision of the Orthodox patriots of Russia, whose ideal of a national culture is ‘Church customs and Church art’, and the goal of which is ‘the canonization of new national saints’ in every age (Fr John Strickland, The Making of Holy Russia, Jordanville, Ny.: Holy Trinity Publications, 2013, pgs. 4, 14).  Hurry onwards, Dixiemen, to ‘achieve[] the ideal of a liturgical culture in which the whole corporate way of life is ordered to the service of [the Most Holy Trinity] in a continual cycle of prayer and sacramental action’ (Dawson, p. 80).

Then, we may begin to speak of a Christian culture in the Souðland.

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