Prayer is not wishful nonsense. It helps us to shut up and think | Giles Fraser – Loose canon | Opinion | The Guardian

Under that flag of convenience called free speech, people tear up their decency in the search for “likes”. Oh, how cheaply we trade the things that matter most. Have social media and the stamping foot of the 24-hour news cycle killed off the quiet dignity of grief, both religious and non-religious?

Source: Prayer is not wishful nonsense. It helps us to shut up and think | Giles Fraser Loose canon | Opinion | The Guardian

Some thoughtful reflections from Giles Fraser, a parish priest in south London, who blogs under the name of “The Loose Canon”:

Prayer is not a way of telling God the things he already knows. Nor is it some act of collective lobbying, whereby the almighty is encouraged to see the world from your perspective if you screw up your face really hard and wish it so. Forget Christopher Robin at the end of the bed. Prayer is mostly about emptying your head waiting for stuff to become clear. There is no secret formula. And holding people in your prayers is not wishful thinking. It’s a sort of compassionate concentration, where someone is deliberately thought about in the presence of the widest imaginable perspective – like giving them a mental cradling.

But above all, prayer is often just a jolly good excuse to shut up for a while and think.

He seems, from what I can determine, to be toward the left end of the political spectrum. But he is square on about this!

And of course, this is leaving out of the equation the question of whether or not prayer really is efficacious. As Christians, we believe that God knows our needs before we ask them, and often responds before we can ask. But he still wants to hear us ask – that demonstrates that we know precisely what we want and need, and hopefully have reflected on why.

Does praying increase the chance that God will respond? Maybe, maybe not. I’m inclined to doubt it, for the reasons I’ve already delineated. But I’m not going to stop praying, for that reason! It’s been said that prayer is not really for God, but for us, and I agree with that. It gives us the chance to thoughtfully ponder – and to lay before that most awesome and transcendent divine reality, God Himself – our concerns, and the concerns of others: to hold them lovingly in our hearts, and minds. That is no bad thing, regardless of any practical effects it may or may not have.

Prayer should not, it is true, distract us from taking what practical steps we are able to take, to effect the changes we want to see. As St. James the Apostle wrote,

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:15-16)

Yet that does not invalidate prayer, as an act of mercy, of kindness, of compassion – and of faith in a God who is also merciful, kind, and compassionate. Sometimes prayer can, and often should, accompany action. Sometimes a situation is so overwhelming, or so out of our control, that all we can do is pray. And if that’s all we can do, then we should certainly do all that we can do.

Inspiration and hope for the future!

The following was posted by a young gentleman(18-21 age bracket) on a social network where I have a presence:

I believe men are protectors.
As men we are given strength to stand for what we believe. We are given a physical nature that can be used to protect and love or destroy.
I want to leave a legacy of people who I helped, of people I guarded from harm.
I want to be a man who loves deeply and truly. Who is not afraid to display weakness, but knows he is strong.
I want to be a man that proves my masculinity by being gentle and respectful to women. Who proves my heritage by making her feel safe in my arms and comforted by my touch. I want to make her quiver and tingle in the most innocent and wonderful ways.
I will demonstrate my strength by standing up for the weak. By speaking kindly when I don’t want to. By listening to both sides of the story.

I want to be a sheepdog, and the very best version of myself. I want to continually grow and learn. I desire knowledge and a level head. I want to be the person who remains calm and collected when the world around me is tangled in flames and in chaos.

As I told him, it is a joy to see these words, especially coming from a member of the rising generation. It gives me hope for the future!

What is cultural Marxism?

As a blog devoted to the defense and promotion of the traditional, the classical, and the enduring – or to put it another way, “the good, the true, and the beautiful” – The Anglophilic Anglican is obviously on the polar-opposite end of the spectrum from that pervasive and pernicious metapolitical phenomenon often known as “cultural Marxism.” But what is cultural Marxism, anyway?

The precise definition can vary with the individual or entity doing the defining, but it is fair to say that cultural Marxism includes at least these elements:

  1. Globalist and internationalist in scope and ethos, cultural Marxism opposes national or regional loyalty, pride, and patriotism, supporting instead transnational structures like the UN and EU.
  2. Cultural Marxism typically supports “open borders” and “liberal” (e.g., lax or nonexistence) immigration policies, employing euphemisms (such as “undocumented” instead of the factual illegal, and “refugees” rather than the more accurate “migrants”) to mask or justify its intentions.
  3. Deeply anti-traditional, cultural Marxism sees (rightly!) traditional cultural, spiritual / religious, and even political norms and values as antithetical, indeed hostile, to its goal of transforming society in its own image.
  4. Highly secular, even atheistic, cultural Marxism is opposed to traditional religious and moral values, particularly those rooted in the Christian faith, although it is willing to use quasi-religious rhetoric and the idea of interfaith “coexistence” to advance its agenda.
  5. Aggressively “multi-cultural,” cultural Marxism claims to champion “diversity,” but appears to fail to realize that making every place demographically identical is not in fact diversity, but homogeneity. Or perhaps it does realize this, and that’s part of the agenda…
  6. While claiming “individual rights” as the justification for much of its raison d’être, cultural Marxism paradoxically adopts strong-arm, authoritarian tactics – from shaming campaigns (accusing opponents of “racism,” “sexism,” “xenophobia,” etc.) to violent protests / riots – for squashing dissent and imposing its view of the world, in the process trampling the individual rights of those who do not agree with its ideology.
  7. Despite its antipathy to traditional moral standards, cultural Marxism is quite willing to use traditional terminology and concepts, such as “compassion” and “fairness,” to justify its attempts to overthrow traditional social and political structures and moral values.
  8. Cultural Marxism is methodical and gradual in its methods, and takes the long view of history, knowing that every moral or social innovation accepted makes it that much more difficult to justify opposition to the next step; it counts on its opponents becoming fatigued, and giving up the fight.

“The Revolution won’t happen with guns, rather it will happen incrementally, year by year, generation by generation. We will gradually infiltrate their educational institutions and their political offices, transforming them slowly into Marxist entities as we move towards universal egalitarianism.” – Max Horkheimer, leader of the “Frankfurt School”

Not coincidentally, the importation and juxtaposition in close proximity of people with widely (even wildly) varied cultural, political, social, and religious backgrounds (*), coupled with the deconstruction of traditional mediating institutions such as traditional families and churches, and traditional social, moral, and political norms and understandings, provides fertile ground for the imposition of radically innovative ideas and ideologies – such as cultural Marxism itself. This is a truth which is not lost on cultural Marxists.

(* On this subject, I wish I could find the account I read, several years ago, about a cruise company which proudly advertised the multicultural nature of its crews. The dark secret that “selling point” hid, as recounted by the author of the article, is that having a crew made up of people of  a wide range of ethnicities, cultures, national origins, languages, etc., meant that it was almost impossible for them to come together and organize for collective bargaining. As a result, the company was able to exploit them more-or-less with impunity! This is a lesson which should be recalled, when considering the ostensible “benefits” of aggressive multiculturalism and immigration.)

Nota Bene: Franklin Einspruch, at The Federalist, makes a good case that what are most commonly known, these days, as cultural Marxists are actually what he refers to as “pomofascists,” short for “postmodern fascists.” As Einspruch notes,

“The main impulse at work here is not Marxism, but megalomania. The pomofascist sees himself as the embodiment of good and worthy causes. The less everyone else supports those causes, the less human they are, and therefore deserving fewer rights and less entitlement to their own views. Lying to them or about them is of no consequence. Beyond a not-so-far-off point of disagreement, it is acceptable to attack them, rhetorically or bodily. In this context, Marxism is merely an exculpatory device.”

While I don’t disagree with the point, I think we can’t totally discredit or ignore the Leftist / Marxist attitudes and ideology espoused by most of these people, either (see Horkheimer quote, above). Also, I think he’s fighting an uphill battle if he seriously wants to change the designation: “cultural Marxism” has acquired a certain currency, despite repeated (and somewhat hysterical) attempts by its proponents to discredit both the term and those who use it.

But then, I have always argued that the political spectrum is less a straight line than a horseshoe: go far enough to either the Left or the Right, and you end in totalitarianism.

“Because Man is not great” – on the relationship between atheism and socialism

Throne, Altar, Liberty: The Younger Brother

The linked post is a review of The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith by Peter Hitchens, younger brother of Christopher Hitchens, whose paean to atheism god is not great, received a certain amount of attention several years ago. While The Rage Against God is not, as Gerry T. Neal, author of “Throne, Altar, Liberty,” points out, “a comprehensive rebuttal of the atheistic arguments his brother Christopher compiled,” a number of interesting and cogent points are found in Mr. Neal’s account thereof.

Among them is a discussion of the relationship between World War Two and the functional end of of both Empire and Christianity as applied to Britain: “The War marked the end of Britain’s being a Christian nation in anything other than name. It also marked the end of the British Empire with the United Kingdom being eclipsed as the world power by its wartime allies, the United States and the Soviet Union.”

The two are not unrelated; both represent a crisis of faith: on the one hand, faith in a transcendent sacred reality, usually referred to as God; on the other, faith in traditional social and political structures and norms, as represented by the British Empire, which had existed for several centuries at the time of WW II (and arguably, intermittently at least, for a thousand years or more previously).

As the younger Hitchens points out, “I had replaced Christianity and the Churchill cult with an elaborate socialist worldview — because I had decided that I did not wish to believe in God or in patriotism.”

And socialism, of course, is a utopian political and economic worldview and ideology which believes that we can bring about a return to Eden on our own, if only we can enact (and bring people to accept, by persuasion or, if necessary, compulsion) enough programs of social engineering. It is therefore by its very nature predisposed to be amenable to, and compatible with, atheism, although it does exist in at least nominally Christian forms.

[I shall be speaking, here, of socialism primarily in its social / cultural form, as described above — which in its more extreme manifestations is sometimes referred to as “cultural Marxism.” Critiques may be made of both socialism and capitalism as economic systems, but that is not the topic of this essay.]

Rather than accepting (in How the Irish Saved Civilization author Thomas Cahill’s idiom) that “St. Paul trumps Plato” — a clear-eyed realization that Paul’s admission that “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19) is far closer to the experience of most humans, most of the time, than Plato’s assumption that one who comprehends “the Good” cannot help but pursue it — socialists and atheists alike continue to believe that we can “boot-strap” ourselves into a secular analog of salvation.

Ironically, then, while secularists — both socialists and atheists — pat themselves on the back for their “rationalism” and “realism,” it can be argued that Christianity actually has a much more realistic and rational view of human nature. But despite, or perhaps because of, its more modest expectations, it has nonetheless inspired its adherents to accomplish some pretty amazing things, intellectually, artistically, and socially. It has also, of course, fallen prey to the vicissitudes of human nature.

Atheists continually try to downplay the countless ways Western civilization has benefited from Christianity and to condense Church history into the Crusades, Inquisition, and priestly child abuse. As Hitchens points out however, violence and persecution that has been conducted in the name of faith is “not because they are religious, but because Man is not great.”

That is to say, violence and persecution in the name of religion occur not because of the Christian faith, but despite it. Religion may be the justification or rationalization used, but it is not the cause. Human nature is the cause. This does not deny that Christianity has sometimes been used to justify oppression, but it places the blame where it belongs: on the human element, not the doctrine. (Of course, some religions have doctrines that encourage violence in a way that Christianity does not. The fact that the human religious impulse itself comes from God and tends toward God does not mean that all religions are morally equivalent, or theologically interchangeable. Discernment is vital.)

Similarly, in the words of Hitchens, atheists ought to

concede that Godless regimes and movements have given birth to terrible persecutions and massacres. They do not [make this concession], in my view, because in these cases the slaughter is not the result of a misunderstanding or excessive zeal. Utopia can only ever be approached across a sea of blood. This is a far greater problem for the atheist than it is for the Christian, because the atheist uses this argument to try to demonstrate that religion specifically makes things worse than they otherwise would be. On the contrary, it demonstrates that our ability to be savage to our own kind cannot be wholly prevented by religion. More important still, Atheist states have a consistent tendency to commit mass murders in the name of the greater good. [emphasis added]

Similarly, if (hopefully) less drastically, socialist states have a consistent and easily-observable tendency to enact ever-more-stringent social controls in the name of “equality” and “protecting the rights of the individual,” until you have what amounts to a “soft” totalitarianism of oppressive laws that drastically limit individual freedom in the service of ostensibly protecting individual rights.

In other words, the right of individuals to freely express themselves is constrained, sometimes dramatically, in pursuit of the right of other individuals to not be “put out”… which is another way of saying, to freely express themselves.

So who decides whose rights to express themselves are more important? Why, whoever is in power at the time! Is this morality, or is it the law of the jungle? As Mr. Neal accurately notes, “Atheists such as Greg Epstein insist that man can be ‘good without God.’ Hitchens shows that apart from an external source of justice, morality among humans ultimately breaks down into ‘might makes right’.”

Or as C.S. Lewis famously put it,

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep; his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

So while socialism and atheism may not be identical, and may not always and necessarily co-inhabit the same person’s psyche, they are natural allies and frequent fellow-travelers. It is therefore not a surprise that post-WW II Britain – and indeed, much of Europe – has become increasingly both socialist and atheist (a process which actually began with World War One, and only accelerated after the Second World War).

But the combination is a problematic one, to say the least. As discussed previously, it leads inevitably toward the devaluing of faith: not only faith in a transcendent sacred reality, replacing it with a dubious faith in the ultimate perfectibility of human nature (against which both reason and experience counsel strongly), but faith in traditional norms and structures of society: ironically, despite the name, socialism tends to result in a radically individualistic social milieu, compared to more traditional societies.

The result is a too-frequent and perhaps inevitable breakdown of the moral and practical constraints which these traditional elements place upon the more violent and hubristic elements of human nature. As noted above, apart from an external source of justice, morality among humans ultimately breaks down into “might makes right” — an unreliable source of moral rectitude, to put it mildly!

Morality As Worship

And while we’re on the subject of acting rightly…!

“Why should Christians act morally? Because if they do they will go to Heaven and if they don’t they will go to Hell? Surely that can’t be the answer. For as the New Atheists rightly point out, a morality based on self-interest is no morality at all.

It seems to me that the Biblical answer is that God demands worship and that acting morally is a form of worship… We are all baptized as priests, and I believe this is the key thing: we are called to give God right worship through our entire lives, including through right living.”

Source: Morality As Worship

I agree, and I think one of the keys, here, is the word “worship” itself. Originally stemming from “worth-ship,” it was something you gave another who deserved it: to “give worthship,” later contracted to “worship,” meant that you gave them the honour, and the behaviour, which was their due. You accorded them worth, and behaved accordingly.

Nor was it originally limited solely to the Deity: knights swore fealty to their lords “of life, and limb, and earthly worship,” and the old Prayer Book marriage service had the husband-to-be pledging to his new wife, “with this ring, I thee wed; with my body, I thee worship; with all my earthly goods, I thee endow.”

But God, of course, is uniquely deserving of worship, since He is the Source of all that is, and even when we give (whether it be worship or other forms of offering), “of Thine own have we given Thee.” So it makes sense that, as part of our “worth-ship” given to God, we include living and behaving in those ways which we are told in the Scriptures are pleasing to Him, and to refrain from those things that are un-pleasing.

If you truly love and give worth-ship to your wife, you would intentionally do things you knew were displeasing to her, would you? And if you were a knight, you certainly wouldn’t intentionally do things you knew were displeasing to your lord! The same holds true, or should – and if anything, even moreso – when it comes to God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and also the Bridegroom of His Bride, the Church.

Of course, this is an ideal which we, as humans, are incapable of perfectly living up to. That’s where penitence comes in! But we can certainly make the effort.