Saturday, 6 August 2011

Dark Ages

Is Europe about to be humbled?
A dark gloom is settling over Europe in the form of yet another economic meltdown.

Politicians and markets are in panic across the continent leading one Telegraph columnist to ask "Who will save us now?" with a picture of Cameron, Obama and Angela Merkel among other World leaders. I don't know what kind of a Saviour the columnist is looking for, but I couldn't see Our Lord in that picture and, besides, He saves souls, not financial markets. All the politicians in the photo appear to be quite happy, so perhaps it wasn't that wise a choice of image given the great shake down that the markets are experiencing.

It has to be said, however, that the gloom descending over the 'Eurozone', which sounds rather unfortunately like a pay-per-view pornographic TV channel, is more than economic. The 'good times' were never going to last forever, no matter where and to whom you choose to attribute blame for the financial crisis now threatening the economic and political stability of an all but nominally Christian continent. I don't know too much about economics, but apparently it has something to do with 'confidence' and investors. The idea, at its most basic, is that investors lose 'confidence' in a particular market, or indeed, markets.

Sad as that is, it all sounds quite apt for our age.  The Church, certainly in the United Kingdom and perhaps in large swathes of Europe has become peripheral to society, a community living on the edge. Few have 'confidence' in Her, but those who do not are guilty of 'over-confidence' in themselves. Economic prosperity seems to occur in times of 'confidence' and when it appears people are 'over-confident' the bubble bursts and splats all over Europe.

The majority in Europe regard the Church as some kind of a lunatic fringe, no matter how polite, intelligible and appeasing are many Bishops and Clergy, some of whom are so appeasing that they wonder aloud, on matters concerning Church teaching on human sexuality, "Who knows what is down the road?". Why, one wonders, would anybody 'invest' their faith in the Catholic Church when members of the hierarchy cannot give investors cast-iron guarantees on Church teaching? Sounds like some kind of theological hedge fund to me.

The folly of atheism will be Europe's real calamity
Aside from this, however, it could be argued that even if Bishops and Clergy were bold in teaching the Faith, Western society might well reject it outright. Reasons for this are many, as we know, but at the root of it is a sense that society itself has moved on and progressed from traditional dogma and teaching and found new paths to explore which yield happiness.

This, after all, is the age of technology, progress, enlightened thought, reason, rationality, science, new theory, modernism, post-modernism, feminism, socialism, unbridled capitalism and the rest. The proclamation of Divine Revelation is just old and out-moded piece of 'sky-fairy myth-making by a man dressed in white robes who, anyway, is probably the leader of an international paedophile syndicate that professes a belief in a God who probably doesn't exist so don't worry'. Our Holy Faith may be 100% true, but it isn't new, even if the Beauty that handed it down to the Apostles and through them to the Successors of those Apostles, to the Church today, is both 'ancient and new'. 'Itching ears' call for new scratches and there are no shortage of those in the modern age. Just ask Tina Beattie, for she seems to believe in most of them.

 Intellectual powerhouse: St Thomas Aquinas
There is an intellectual hubris that dominates modern Western thought and 21st century man, so that while the great works of Saints who emerged from the end of the dark ages into the middle ages are rejected, new philosophies and ideologies are embraced.  The thought of Sts Augustine and Aquinas are disregarded as superstitious nonsense. New 'gurus' of the modern era, such as, for example, Richard Dawkins, are esteemed higher than great monastic Saints, such as Benedict, holy friars such as Francis and holy preachers like Dominic.  Their great wisdom came from God and they are credible witnesses to Christ and His Church, yet their wisdom is rejected. The Church, through the continued Apostolic work of Pope Benedict XVI challenges the West to look deeper than the surface level of human existence and to seek the Face of God who made us in His own image and likeness, for His glory and in Whom alone we can find rest for our restless hearts.

The problem is that we really do think we have moved on. We believe that our age is better than any other age, for this is the age of 'progress', 'technology' and 'reason'. As a society, we believe, like Dawkins claims, that we are or can be 'good without God'. We don't need God, because, basically we're clever and we've liberated ourselves from the bonds of religion. We believe, as a society at any rate, that God is for dumb people and not for intelligent people. The problem is that we think we can move on and sever our ties with the past, even our very link to God Himself, His Church, in a new and more 'enlightened' age. Once God has become Man, however, and 'dwelt among us', we cannot just move on and herein lies the crux of Europe's perhaps imminent downfall because, whether the markets recover or not, we will eventually pay a price for our rejection of the One who became Man for our sakes and for our sakes, died.

Like a lover who pierces our heart with their beauty in a tempestuous affair, and then leaves in the dead of night, we are left bereaved when they do leave and we long for them to come back even if we could just but see their face one last time, or smell their perfume. We can try and forget them, but deep down we long for them. We cover our pain with new theories, new modes of thought, new ideologies, new loves, new ways of life, new technologies, new, more sophisticated, so we believe, avenues, but nothing, nothing, not even mansions, gold, 24-hour cocaine parties and endless sexual amusement can replace that lover, for their beauty pierced us like a stigmata and left us wounded with love. Any continent, country or indeed person who has known, even for a century or even a day, Jesus Christ, will never be able to forget Him totally, no matter how much we try to obscure Him. Never again, would our lives be the same, if a continent has been given the great supernatural gift of Faith. Nothing can replace Jesus Christ and when we try to replace Jesus Christ with anything, it does not compare. Nothing can, because He is the Light of this World and these, these are the dark ages.

And if there can be such a thing as a 'structural' or even 'collective' sin, then our sin is the sin of over-confidence and complacency. We think that the dark ages and middle ages were bad because there was plague and people were unlettered and there was no decent sewerage systems, but in those days, when the proverbial was hitting the fan in whatever way, people believed quite rightly that everything depended upon God and His mercy and protection and His Providence. Even if it looked like the moon had gone a funny colour, people shat themselves because they thought it was an omen of Divine Judgement and started praying the Rosary. We don't do that now because we've 'moved on'. Well, maybe they were onto something, even if back then they were more simple and less educated in the sciences.

IVF: The wilful destruction of nascent human life
Now, we have sanitation but we're flushing embryos down the pan like there is no tomorrow. Now, we have technology, but we're destroying innocent human life with that technology in IVF. Now, we have technology and medicine, but both are being used to destroy babes in the womb. Now, we have technology, and we are proud of ourselves because we can rid the World of downs syndrome babies!

Now, we have a more 'enlightened' society, in an age of 'reason' but if a poor man comes to a block of flats for a chat with a Catholic layman, it is likely that layman will be hounded out of his home because he is bringing down the reputation of the flats down because, just like the dark ages and medieval times, there are still beggars and itinerants roaming the streets with no protection or due regard from the local authorities. I suppose in those days a monastery might have taken the man under their wings, but those days are long gone because this is the age of technology, progress, reason and enlightenment and monasteries are no longer, in the World's eyes at least, places of prayer and sanctification, but hiding holes for the mentally feeble who can't cope with 'the real world'.

These are dark ages, indeed, and it is not just an economic issue. We miss Jesus Christ and His Church. How could we not when we are made for Him!? We're still consoling ourselves with sin and unsatisfying new creeds, hoping against all hope, that sin and error will make us happy. We're still consoling ourselves with money, as if money could ever make us happy. We're still consoling ourselves with sex for pleasure alone, with copious amounts of alcohol and drugs, imagining there will be no consequences to our actions, consoling ourselves with our vices. Nothing has changed, but that we have abandoned our Faith as a continent, abandoned Christ, His Church and Our Blessed Lady.

All the progress we think we have made, and it is reflected in the life of the Church as well in many ways, is nought because we have forgotten our total and utter dependence on God. The sorrowful fact is that if the Sun emitted a whopper of a solar flare that knocked out the world's electric grids, international markets would go down, we'd have no sanitation, we'd be eating nettles and getting water from nearby springs, if we had any springs and just to cap it all off, there would be no internet, telephones or mobile phones. It may never happen, and I hope it doesn't, but if it did, we'd be screwed and royally so!

The 'progress' we believe we have made is but a coat of veneer glossing over our true human condition as sinners dependent on God. The problem is that we, foolishly, believe that we are better, more educated and sophisticated sinners than those who proceeded us. Perhaps we no longer even believe we are sinners. This complacency and over-confidence has dominated even the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church for over half a century. We all need to wake up to reality and that painful reality is our true human condition and our need for the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. A gloom is indeed descending over Europe, but the dark ages has nothing, absolutely nothing on us. These are the real dark ages. Deep down, in the depths of its soul, Europe knows that and Europe needs, above all else, the Light of Christ. Only then, will what was once called Christendom, start to recover from its real meltdown.


philipjohnson said...

bones.your writings are insightful and so very true .i always look forward to reading love the true faith and are sad that our (english)church leaders do not convince us of their integrity.this last post -about the demise of the west was truly brilliant and top of the range of writings about the spiritual decline of the west .god bless you .keep the faith bones and let us pray that this land will see conversion to the true faith again.god bless the holy catholic church .keep on writing!! philip johnson.

Annie Elizabeth said...

Agree. Agree. Agree. Agree. Agree!

A truly insightful piece, Lawrence, thank you for writing it! I think you're spot-on.

God bless you! Keep the Faith, and keep writing. I think postings like this do a lot of good: you're really drilling right to the heart of the matter.

Nothing else to say except "Wot Bones said" ;-)

God bless,


. said...

Finally, a post I can leave a comment on! If only to say how much I enjoy (and sometimes, am highly disturbed by) reading your blog.

A few comments...

"but at the root of it is a sense that society itself has moved on and progressed from traditional dogma and teaching and found new paths to explore which yield happiness."

Yes, indeed. But more than that, I think: It's almost as if the modern world finds the answers of the Church no longer sufficient. In the aftershocks of the World Wars, the old confidences seem inadequate. I am convinced that these wars broke the spirit of the West, perhaps permanently. Even the concept of confidence in our culture seems hollow.

"This, after all, is the age of technology, progress, enlightened thought, reason, rationality, science, new theory, modernism, post-modernism, feminism, socialism, unbridled capitalism and the rest."

"We are Progress and the New Age", as one of the characters in Black Mischief puts it.

"Their great wisdom came from God and they are credible witnesses to Christ and His Church, yet their wisdom is rejected."

Their great wisdom was built up slowly by contemplation and prayer. Dawkins presumes he already knows. I think the Church's fate in all this is somewhat bound up with academe, as an 'intellectual' thing.

"And if there can be such a thing as a 'structural' or even 'collective' sin, then our sin is the sin of over-confidence and complacency. "

It's more monstrous than that, and more terrifying. It's a... words fail to encompass it. It's gargantuan gluttony, gargantuan selfishness. In the West we set ourselves up as gods by grinding the Third World into the dirt.

"Well, maybe they were onto something, even if back then they were more simple and less educated in the sciences."

More to the point, they damn well got on with finding a solution, too. God helps those who help themselves. In the modern world, we just don't take reality very seriously, including things like death and suffering.

Physiocrat said...

" I don't know too much about economics". Please don't keep saying this, it is not true.

The rest is contemporary Chestertonian.

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