Benedict Foresaw Today’s Revolutionary Iconoclasm – Crisis Magazine

Recently, some American activists have ignited a movement to usher in an urgent iconoclasm of vile symbols of culture and history, such as the removal of statues bearing the likeness of General Robert E. Lee, inter alia

Source: Benedict Foresaw Today’s Revolutionary Iconoclasm – Crisis Magazine

There is a lot of good in this essay, but it is marred, in my view, by a faulty premise: the implication that the iconoclasts are operating out of basically the right instincts, but, poor benighted souls, they are just going about it the wrong way. Like his colleague Franck, who he hails as a “more astute thinker” (I am forced to disagree, at least on this topic), Venzor fails to entertain or even consider the possibility that the iconoclasts, the barbarians, are wrong at root, just as the dominant, Northern narrative has been wrong since the ending of the War Between the States.

To recount in brief what I have delineated in far greater detail elsewhere: yes, slavery was a presenting cause for Secession, especially the first wave of seceding states, for whom it was a major feature of their economy (in part due to the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney – a Northerner, ironically enough). But it was not the cause of the second wave of secession, nor was it the cause of the War itself: that was brought about by the determination of the Lincoln administration to return the seceded states to the Union by force: a Union which many or most, both North and South, believed at the time to be voluntary.

And the great figures of that War, on the Southern side, were not fighting to defend slavery, any more than the common soldiers were; they were fighting to defend their homes, and their home states. They were not fighting against the Constitution, they were fighting for the Constitution, against an administration that demonstrated itself willing to run rough-shod over the Constitution, in order to maintain, at all costs, a Union that had previously been understood to be a voluntary Union of sovereign States.

And it was that initial and fundamental evil that brought about all the evils that followed: the horrors of “Reconstruction,” which enriched Northern speculators and further impoverished the war-torn South (and which brought about the formation of the Klan, initially as a self-defense organization against the egregious excesses committed against a South which had already been beaten and crushed by the industrial might and great population advantage of the North); and the subsequent – and consequent – hard feelings and resentments on both sides, which sadly persist to this day.

General Lee (who unlike his Union counterpart, General Grant, freed the slaves he had acquired through his wife) himself believed slavery to be both a great moral and a grievous political evil, but believed that imposing a too-sudden end to it, especially by force, would result in more problems than it would solve – and looking at the century-and-a-half which followed, it is hard to argue with that conclusion. If the war had indeed been about slavery, it is absurd, a bitter joke, to imagine that alone of all the civilized nations of the world, the United States needed a horrific war killing nearly a million of its citizens on both sides to accomplish the end of abolishing it.

But it was not about slavery, and until the publication of the much-vaunted “Emancipation Proclamation” – which freed not a single slave in any location where Lincoln’s writ actually ran, neither in the slave states remaining in the Union nor in those areas of the Confederacy under Union control – no one, save perhaps a handful of radical abolitionists, tried to pretend that it was. It was an economic and political war, fought to preserve both the Union and – perhaps more critically, in the eyes of the Lincoln administration – the North’s access to Southern raw materials, and the Federal government’s access to the tariffs from their export, which in those pre-income-tax days was the chief source of funds for running the Federal government.

There is much more that could be said, but my point is this: the narrative itself is flawed, is erroneous, is – fundamentally – a lie, and it is from that falsehood that stem a lot of the problems we are now facing. People both white and black have been taught to look at the War Between the States as being “about” slavery, about race, and everything, every person, every icon and symbol, of that period has therefore been filtered through that falsehood. That is the key problem, the 900-pound gorilla in the room, as it were.

Similarly, it is erroneous – part of the aforementioned false narrative – to claim that racial animus was the impetus for the erection of Confederate monuments. The fact is, there were two factors resulting in the timing of those monuments’ creation: the first is the amount of time it took to raise the requisite funds in the war-ravaged and impoverished South; the second is the fact that it was at during that time – the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the early years of the 20th – that the “living monuments,” the soldiers who had actually fought in the War, were dying off. It is not a strange or surprising thing that the urge to erect monuments to them reached a critical pitch at that time.

There was a time in our nation’s history when this was more widely understood. What some have called “the Great Truce” or the “Great Compromise” lasted from, approximately, the Spanish-American War to the cultural clashes of the 1960s, and indeed staggered on in a more tenuous form probably right up until the latest attack on Southern culture and identify following Dylan Roof’s execrable murder of Charleston church-goers in 2015. It was an unwritten and largely unspoken “gentleman’s agreement,” and the terms were these:

The South would consider itself fully, loyally, and patriotically part of the Union, send its sons to fight and die for the United States, and do all in its power to protect and defend our united country. But in exchange, it would be allowed to honour and celebrate the heroes and icons of the Confederacy, to take pride in their valour and sacrifices, and to venerate the symbols under which they fought. From the sea of American flags at NASCAR races to the disproportionate number of Southerners volunteering for military service, the South has more than lived up to its end of the bargain.

Only to have that loyalty thrown back in its face: its flags hauled down, it heroes dishonoured, its monuments destroyed, defaced, removed. Can you honestly wonder that there is frustration, resentment, and yes, anger at this? Much is made of the feelings of African-Americans, who supposedly feel oppressed and down-trodden by a handful of statues (though I know quite a few who have actively participated in the defense of those same statues). And I am not unsympathetic, although again, I think a lot of this has to do with the false narrative, dishonestly presented, I mentioned previously.

But what of those Southerners, both black and white, who because they are peaceful, law-abiding citizens (unlike the domestic terrorists of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and similar organizations), must stand by and watch while their monuments and symbols, and those of their honoured ancestors, are removed, defaced, destroyed? Nor should anyone be naive enough to think that this will stop with Confederate monuments. Where Venzor’s article does shine is in pointing out that this kind of barbaric iconoclasm has a momentum of its own, and once begun, is hard to stop.

“Absent… abatement via rational process, revolutionary acts masked as politics engender one-sided political interest asserting pure will and power. As Cardinal Ratzinger expresses, this creates blind spots in the moral assessments of political realities and history. And blind spots in morals and politics produce unintended consequences—or, perhaps, for the urgent iconoclasts, wholly intended consequences.” With that, I am in complete agreement. We are all at risk from what is transpiring, at present. But we are not helped by virtue-signaling, pandering to political correctness, or in any way pretending that the iconoclasts have any justification whatsoever, historical or moral, for their acts.

———-

P.S. I use the term “War Between the States” and not the “Civil War” because that is another part of the Big Lie: it was not a civil war, which is a war between two or more factions for control of a central government; this was a war between states that wanted to be left alone and a Federal government that refused to allow that. It was a war between states that wanted to separate themselves, peaceably, from the remainder of the country, and a government that invaded to prevent that from occurring.

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11 (12) Traits of A Quality Woman

A Sunny Girl - beautiful redhead

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives; the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”

~ Audrey Hepburn

In this article, we focus on some of the common traits of quality women. We hope that the content is entertaining and insightful; perhaps even useful.

Source: 11 Traits of A Quality Woman

Here are 11 common traits quality women share:

To which I have added a twelfth, at the end! I have also included comments [inset, like this one] where I felt them to be warranted. This is referring, of course, to women who are worthy of not only dating and forming close relationships with, but also – hopefully and ideally – the lifelong bond of matrimony. So what are these traits? They may not be limited to, but certainly include, the following: Continue reading “11 (12) Traits of A Quality Woman”

Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 651 | For All the Saints

 

Aidan, a man of great gentleness, moderation, and holiness, was sent as the new head of the mission to Northumbria. Aidan centered his work not at York but on the tidal island of Lindisfarne, which Oswald had granted to the Irish for their missionary endeavors.

Source: Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 651 | For All the Saints

I have always greatly admired St. Aidan of Lindisfarne! One of those early-medieval British saints who lived, as it were, at the juxtaposition of the Roman and Celtic observances, and embodied the best of both worlds… A compassionate, as well as holy, man!

And Lindisfarne, of course – in addition to being one of the earliest targets of the Vikings – is the site of the lovely illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels, which (at the risk of heresy) I think I actually like better than the much more famous Book of Kells…

What does “Christ the King” mean for us?

Christ the King - stained glass

This question is rhetorical, intended to incite pondering – and possibly prayer – rather than discussion, necessarily, and certainly rather than debate. That said, here it is:

We speak of Jesus as “Lord” and “King” – indeed, in the stirring words of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” drawn from the words of Holy Scripture, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”! Indeed, to be more theologically accurate, the High King of Heaven is God the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three Persons.

But what does that mean, what can it mean, to someone living in a Constitutionally democratic, representative Republic, for whom kingship is resolutely foreign (and often, quite misunderstood), and whose only experience of “aristocracy” is the mutant form represented by the economic elite (the “1%”) and the stars of the sports and entertainment industries?

Here is a reflection on monarchy, by a person I consider a good friend though I have yet to meet him in person, Ryan Hunter. He writes:

“I believe, and thousands of years of history have shown, that a man or woman instructed from youth in the art of government, a person who is trained from childhood to see their rule as a sacred duty, a solemn service, and a public stewardship rather than an earned right, governs more benignly, sincerely, capably, and nobly than someone who has either taken power through brute force, violent revolution, or contested elections. Democratic elections are an extraordinary thing in that they propose that, upon being elected, a politician who has previously been partisan, divisive, and factious will somehow, almost magically, cease to be partisan, divisive, and factious upon taking office. I believe it is the very height of naivete to believe that a popularly elected, partisan politician can somehow serve as a supra-political, unifying figure.”

Yet it is that “popularly elected, partisan politician” who we as Americans know (all too well!), while we are basically ignorant – at least from personal experience – of “a person who is trained from childhood to see their rule as a sacred duty, a solemn service, and a public stewardship rather than an earned right.” How, I wonder, does this lack of person, experiential knowledge effect our understanding of the Christian faith?

Both of my degrees deal with the medieval era – my B.A. in Medieval Studies, specifically; my Master of Theological Studies in History of Christianity: Early and Medieval Christianity, heavily so. I have been immersed, avocationally, in the Middle Ages since childhood, drinking deeply at the well of those who did have a personal, experiential understanding of kingship. Yet even my knowledge and experience is at second- and third-hand. What of those who have not had even so much as that?

I wonder how many of the eccentricities that seem to plague American Christianity – from the inane “prosperity Gospel” to seeing Jesus as primarily our “friend,” our “personal [read: individualistic] savior,” rather than our Sovereign Lord, our King in the full sense of that word, with the Body of Christ, His Church, as the community over which He exercises His lordship, and ourselves as members of that community – can be traced to this lack of full, personal, experiential understanding of kingship and lordship?

Protestantism, at least in America, is so intermingled with individualism and democracy that I am not sure it can ever be fully separated from these concepts. Even in Europe, the Enlightenment followed on so closely to the Renaissance and Reformation that they effectively form a continuum, philosophically. And I wonder if that does not have a profound – and possibly negative – effect on how we read and understand both the Holy Scriptures, and also other foundational documents of our faith.

As I say, something to be pondered, prayed over, and perhaps, discussed… gently. 😉

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist | For All the Saints

Saint John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Messiah, preceded Jesus both in his birth and in his death. His way of life and his preaching closely resemble that of the prophets of the Old Testament.

Source: The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist | For All the Saints

St. John the Baptizer (I’m sorry, but when I say “St. John the Baptist,” I always want to ask, “Southern or American”…?), also known as the Forerunner of Our Lord, was the bridge figure between the Old and New Testaments, the prophetic tradition of Israel, looking toward the coming of the Messiah, and the proclamation that, as we Christians believe, the Messiah has indeed come, in the person of Jesus the Christ (both “Christ” and “Messiah” mean “Anointed One”).

The birth of St. John the Baptizer is celebrated on the 24th of June, and today we commemorate his death by execution – ironically, not for anything he said or did wrong (though he was in prison at the time), but because King Herod Antipas was trapped by his own promise (perhaps brought about by lust). A warning, perhaps, to be cautious about what you swear to do… and to whom you swear!

COLLECT: O God, you called John the Baptist to be in birth and death the forerunner of your Son: Grant that as John gave his life in witness to truth and righteousness, so we may fearlessly contend for the right, even unto the end; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

What Catholics Lost When They Started Tearing Down Their Great Altars

If the grand altars are at their core outward signs of inward devotion, what does it say about plain altars that more resemble a table than a temple?

Source: What Catholics Lost When They Started Tearing Down Their Great Altars

I am an Anglican, and a member of a fairly “low-church” continuing (traditional) Anglican jurisdiction. But I find a lot to agree with in this essay! Christianity is an Incarnational (and therefore embodied) religion. Therefore, aesthetics – and the incorporation (there’s that body thing again… corpus) of all the senses and the whole physical person, not just the mind, heart, and spirit, into the liturgy – matter.

Get too simplistic, too “Protestant,” and you are beginning to get too close to a form of quasi-Gnostic devaluation of the physical, the material, in favor of the spiritual and intellectual.

And that can lead to a devaluation – however unintentional and subconscious – not only of God’s proclamation that the things He created are good (however marred by human sin), but of the Incarnation itself, in which Jesus the Christ, the Incarnate Word of the Father, indissolubly joined Himself to matter in His own person.

Sure, it’s possible to get too gaudy, and too focused on the external (material) elements of the faith. I am very well aware of that. As in most other areas of life, a balance is called for. But we should never forget the definition of a sacrament: an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Without the outward and visible, are we losing important markers pointing toward the inward and spiritual?

Our Lord Jesus Christ was unique in being fully God and fully Man. But we humans, made in the image of God, comprise a spiritual nature which is nonetheless incarnate (the word means “enfleshed”) in a physical, sensory body, living in a physical, sensory world. We neglect either of these aspects, the physical or the spiritual, at our peril.

The design of churches is one – only one, but an important one – aspect of this. As this essay points out,

The physical design of old churches was meant to dictate several things: ornate artwork on the walls, domes, and arches was meant to pull the eye upward and spark meditation on the divine mysteries, the altarpiece was placed in the apse to orient the congregation properly, and incense was meant to draw together and sanctify the individual properties into one event. That sort of order and hierarchy has been misplaced and is often focused inward, not upward… it is important to remember that how a building is designed is integral to its function.

And the function of a church building is, or should be, to orient the congregation toward God. Not toward itself (or ourselves), not toward the priest: toward God. And the design of the building, including any artistic elaborations – and of course, the liturgy itself – should lead the eyes, the other senses, and through them, the heart, mind, and spirit of the worshipers, God-ward. If that is not happening, something is missing.

And all too often, in today’s churches, it seems that something is indeed missing.

That is not to say that magnificent, ornate altars are guaranteed to focus the attention and lift the spirit of worshipers toward God, or that simple, plain ones cannot do the same. And the same is true of church interiors generally. But generally speaking, we devote time, attention, energy, and yes, money on what is important to us. That is simple human nature.

So, where is our focus? What does the construction of our churches – and of our liturgies – tell us about that focus? I can’t begin to provide a definitive answer to that question; it varies with each church, each congregation, each minister. But it’s something worth thinking about!