Cultus Maiorum

I think the rites of the ancestors, conceived purely and without superstition, are an important part of ensuring the continuance of our families in the faith of Christ.

For a Chinese American like me, honouring the ancestors may involve writing collects in their memory, saying prayers on the anniversaries of their deaths, composing a surname poem in English, and draughting rules of succession for our line, to be altered only with the consent of both the head of the clan and the rest of the family. In my family, this work falls mostly to me.

What things do you do in your families, and how do you think the tradition could grow under your direction?

Your Christian School Mission Is Too Small

Words on the Diocesan Boys’ School Main Building. By Devilreborn.

To have Christian schools, rather than schools that by their way of teaching and of doing things deny the presence of God, is a positive good. The tendency to withdraw into private circles, private schools, private life, effects what late liberal zealots hope for: a state in which Christianity is increasingly a private affair, unable to make claims upon, or even about, the world. Such a withdrawal, though easier for those with the money, is out of reach for the poorer among us. And what are they to do? Shall those who have money withdraw their resources while the needs of their brethren are neglected, and the poorer children left to rot in their schools? What is needed is a system of Christian schools which, though not funded by taxes, is essentially public.

Josiah and the Purgation of Israel

King Josiah Destroying the Idols of Baal. Gustave Doré.

And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.

And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el. And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. And he brake down the houses of the Sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beer-sheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city. Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren. And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.

Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Beth-el. And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Beth-el. And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.

And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant. Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem.

Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.

Commentary on Falangism, Part I: Nation, Unity, Empire

1. We believe in the supreme reality of Spain. The urgent collective task of all Spaniards is to strengthen, elevate, and aggrandize the nation. All individual, group, or class interests must be subordinated without question to the accomplishment of this task.

We cannot pursue the principle of subsidiarity at the expense of the principle of solidarity. Whatever is good for the parts cannot be something that weakens the whole; for the loss of the body is no good for the body’s parts. Now, when nations have once been united and bound together for centuries, they are not easily pulled apart without great injury to all; it is not then a simple matter of one entity doing what is best for itself, for even the one that separates itself from the rest is deprived of something it needs, not to mention what it does to the others. Indeed, as embodied in the person of its king, a nation is one, and to refuse support to the legitimate imperium of the king, and to his care for the whole people, is to rebel against God’s anointed ruler. While our Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven reigning over the earth, present to the Church but invisible to the eyes, the kings he institutes are preëminently the images of his divine kingship. What these images represent, a faithful Christian must not attack, but instead must thereunto submit his own body for the good of the temporal body established by the providence and the power of God. To refuse the subordination of individual, group, or class interests is to reject the duty of charity.

2. Spain is an indivisible destiny in universal terms. Any conspiracy against this indivisible whole is repulsive. All separatism is a crime we shall not forgive. The prevailing Constitution, insofar as it encourages disintegration, offends against the indivisible nature of Spain’s destiny. We therefore demand its immediate repeal.

A nation, such as God has himself established in time, contingent though it is upon the providence of God, is not by the will of man to be put asunder, except by dispersal and exile at the hands of a foreign power. Though God saw fit to divide the nation of Israel, it is clear that such division was the result of sin, and that schism would have been bound up at last if both sides had turned from their sin and come back to the holiness of God; for then God would undoubtedly have united the two royal lines in the kingship of his son David. For his own purposes, of course, he delayed the completion of all things in order to glorify his only-begotten Son, that this Son and Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, might gather up all and rule as the only Davidic king to take up in his hand both Judæa and Samaria, and indeed the uttermost parts of the earth. This rule he continues to exercise from his throne in heaven until the ending of the world. Yet in our own times it is also his will to rule the peoples of the earth through kings who in his Name and in his Spirit are anointed for a time as he is anointed for ever. And so, on this smaller scale, subjects who try to separate nations by law and by kingly person united do sin gravely against the majesty of God, against which everlasting majesty they commit sacrilege when they commit sacrilege against that majesty’s present and living image. Conspiracy to disintegrate a nation’s indivisible whole is a crime that the magistrate in his public capacity is not entitled to forgive, but must with the full force of his imperium destroy, and its conspirators punish with extreme prejudice.

3. We are committed to Empire. We declare that Spain’s historical fulfillment is the Empire. We demand for Spain a prominent position in Europe. We shall not tolerate international isolation or foreign interference. Regarding the countries of Spanish America, our aim is the unification of culture, economic interests, and power. Spain claims that its role as the spiritual axis of the Spanish-speaking world entitles it to a position of preëminence in world affairs.

Likewise do I see the place of the British Empire in the world, which ought to be united in more than its coïncidence of a common head. We have its relics in the requirement that the several realms have the same monarch by law, and that changes to the laws of succession be ratified by the common consent of the whole, without which nothing can be altered. Today, the foreign interference of the European Union, a headless beast, is intolerable; neither is international isolation an acceptable position for a power whose current living and natural endowment compel it to take to the sea. And indeed, when the European Union interferes with the internal affairs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it is an affront to the dignity of the United Kingdom’s sacred bond with its daughter nations, the other Commonwealth realms across the seas. The integrity of the Anglosphere, with ties of common culture and blood, and the sovereignty of the Queen, is not such as the European Union has the right to take away, nor is it such as the British Parliament has the right to give away.

4. Our armed forces – on land, at sea, and in the air – must be sufficiently strong and efficient to ensure at all times for Spain total independence and a world status that befits the nation. We shall give back to the land, sea, and air forces all the public dignity they merit, and we shall see to it that a similar martial outlook pervades the whole of Spanish life.

That a sovereign nation needs to be able to defend itself should go without saying. Military preparedness is essential to the life of the nation, for the expectation that no war can come is the surest way to suffer military defeat. It is therefore necessary that the people not only serve at arms but also have a sufficiently martial outlook to give dutifully to the successful prosecution of a war, not for the sake of aggression but for the sake of a proper defence.

5. Spain will look again to the sea routes for her glory and her wealth. Spain will aim to become a great seafaring power, for times of danger and for the sake of trade. We demand for the Fatherland equal status among navies and on the air routes.

Given Spain’s physical position, this desire is only natural. Both its security and its prosperity call for it to use the advantage and mitigate the disadvantage of its God-given place.

Processional Stations for Saints

Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, Westminster Abbey.

The saints tend to be neglected among some Reformed Christians today, but this was not always so. Take for example the Second Helvetic Confession:

At the same time we do not despise the saints or think basely of them. For we acknowledge them to be living members of Christ and friends of God who have gloriously overcome the flesh and the world. Hence we love them as brothers, and also honour them; yet not with any kind of worship but by an honourable opinion of them and just praises of them. We also imitate them. For with ardent longings and supplications we earnestly desire to be imitators of their faith and virtues, to share eternal salvation with them, to dwell eternally with them in the presence of God, and to rejoice with them in Christ. And in this respect we approve of the opinion of St Augustine in De Vera Religione: ‘Let not our religion be the cult of men who have died. For if they have lived holy lives, they are not to be thought of as seeking such honours; on the contrary, they want us to worship him by whose illumination they rejoice that we are fellow-servants of his merits. They are therefore to be honoured by the way of imitation, but not to be adored in a religious manner,’ etc.

It is not against this principle for a procession to pause at a holy martyr’s grave or at a side altar that honours his memory with verses of Scripture that describe his piety. To be sure, so to pause is a kind of cæremony, and some of the Reformed believe such cæremonies forbidden because there is neither præcept nor example in holy Scripture. Nevertheless, to affirm that a cæremony can be indifferent, and not forbidden merely because it is not commanded by holy Scripture, I call upon the witness of Heinrich Bullinger (quoted by W. J. Torrance Kirby):

Though I would rather no ceremonies, excepting such as are necessary, should be obtruded upon the church, yet I must confess in the man time that regulations respecting them, though possibly not altogether necessary, and sometimes, it may be, useless, ought not forthwith to be condemned as impious, and to excite disorder and schism in the church; seeing that they are not of a superstitious character, and also that in their very nature they are matters of indifference.

And lawfulness of such a practice I maintain even in the case of an altar under which is displayed in some fashion the remains of a dead saint, for it is not idolatry. Though I find it naturally modest to leave the body itself interred, and not for lurid fascination to have the bones open to the public view, I do not think it objectionable to have a saint buried beneath and his effigy visible under the table, with sculpted or painted angels surrounding the burial place in token of God’s regard for his saints.

The crown of St Stephen of Hungary.

Nor is it improper, I think, to show in public one saint’s chains, another’s crown, another’s cloak. These, indeed, are less likely to be abused than the physical remains of the saint himself, and sometimes apter to say in what works the saint’s holiness was manifest. Unlike a saint’s body, moreover, these can be divided and given to believers in other parts of the world as a sign of fellowship in Christ and common reverence for the same saint. Such uses, I think, are not to be held unlawful, but to be held in honour as historical signs of the power of God across the ages, exercised not only in the time of Christ’s ministry on earth but also thereafter. Like a place of burial containing a saint’s body, these more moveable relics are physical testimony of the love of God.

For a relic can be, rather than an object of superstition, a memento of a saintly life, as the image of Caesar on a coin is a memento of his authority, and a skull a memento of death. The Second Helvetic Confession says, ‘Those ancient saints seemed to have sufficiently honoured their dead when they decently committed their remains to the earth after the spirit had ascended on high. And they thought that the most noble relics of their ancestors were their virtues, their doctrine, and their faith. Moreover, as they commend these “relics” when praising the dead, so they strive to copy them during their life on earth.’ If a physical relic is to be seen at all, then, its right use is to encourage the viewer to imitate the saint as the saint once imitated Christ, in order that he may gain a deeper sense of what Christ promises to all who believe in him, and will accomplish in us through the Holy Ghost. It is useless to look to saints as giving us power of themselves, but it is most useful to be reminded of the power God has demonstrated in them. It is for this purpose that one may see a relic and therein have physically present, for our meditation, an outward reminiscence of the holy life to which God has called us all. Though it is nothing to him who knows nothing of the saint, it is a help to him who knows the story of the saint but has not thought of it in a while.

Thus I hold that the sight of a saints’s grave or his image, if not worshipped, can be ædifying. And if seeing can be ædifying, then so can pausing at the sight to remember what it means. So, as a cæremony not only lawful but also not infrequently ædifying, especially in these times when the powers that be (God himself excepted) are increasingly opposed to the Lord’s ways, a procession’s pausing in remembrance of a departed saint should be observed with reverence, even though the Scriptures do not record its use. Though to some it may seem Romish at first, especially when it involves saints’ relics, it is nevertheless justified upon mere Christian principles and not to be dismissed as sectarian idolatry. Indeed, it may shape the kind of piety that we need, a piety strong in the remembrance of what the Lord accomplishes in us by faith.

Falangist Sympathies

Interested in nationalist or fascist movements not wedded to racial theories, movements whose goals I may consider similar in spirit to those of Chiang Kai-shek in China, I find that I broadly approve of the Programme of the Spanish Falange (1937). Its words are sometimes more extreme than I would write myself, but I think the statement can be reconciled to a godly understanding of the commonwealth.

Nation, unity, empire

1. We believe in the supreme reality of Spain. The urgent collective task of all Spaniards is to strengthen, elevate, and aggrandize the nation. All individual, group, or class interests must be subordinated without question to the accomplishment of this task.

2. Spain is an indivisible destiny in universal terms. Any conspiracy against this indivisible whole is repulsive. All separatism is a crime we shall not forgive. The prevailing Constitution, insofar as it encourages disintegration, offends against the indivisible nature of Spain’s destiny. We therefore demand its immediate repeal.

3. We are committed to Empire. We declare that Spain’s historical fulfillment is the Empire. We demand for Spain a prominent position in Europe. We shall not tolerate international isolation or foreign interference. Regarding the countries of Spanish America, our aim is the unification of culture, economic interests, and power. Spain claims that its role as the spiritual axis of the Spanish-speaking world entitles it to a position of preeminence in world affairs.

4. Our armed forces – on land, at sea, and in the air – must be sufficiently strong and efficient to ensure at all times for Spain total independence and a world status that befits the nation. We shall give back to the land, sea, and air forces all the public dignity they merit, and we shall see to it that a similar martial outlook pervades the whole of Spanish life.

5. Spain will look again to the sea routes for her glory and her wealth. Spain will aim to become a great seafaring power, for times of danger and for the sake of trade. We demand for the Fatherland equal status among navies and on the air routes.

State, individual, freedom

6. Ours will be a totalitarian State in the service of the Fatherland’s integrity. All Spaniards will play a part therein through their membership in families, municipalities and trade unions. No one shall play a part therein through a political party. The system of political parties will be resolutely abolished, together with all its corollaries: inorganic suffrage, representation by conflicting factions, and the Cortes as we know it.

7. Human dignity, the integrity of the individual, and individual freedom are eternal and intangible values. But the only way to be really free is to be part of a strong and free nation. No one will be permitted to use his freedom against the unity, the strength, and the freedom of the Fatherland. A rigorous discipline will prevent any attempt to poison or split the Spanish people, or to incite them to go against the destiny of the Fatherland.

8. The National-Syndicalist State will permit any private initiative that is compatible with the collective interest and, indeed, will protect and stimulate those that are beneficial.

Economy, work, class struggle

9. In the economic sphere, we think of Spain as one huge syndicate of all those engaged in production. In order to serve national economic integrity we shall organize Spanish society along corporative lines by creating a system of vertical unions that will represent the various branches of production.

10. We reject the capitalist system, which disregards the needs of the people, dehumanizes private property, and transforms the workers into shapeless masses that are prone to misery and despair. Our spiritual and national awareness likewise repudiates Marxism. We shall channel the drive of the working classes, that are nowadays led astray by Marxism, by demanding their direct participation in the formidable task of the national State.

11. The National-Syndicalist State will not stand cruelly aloof from economic conflicts between men, nor will it look on impassively as the strongest class subjugates the weakest. Our regime will make class struggle totally impossible, since all those cooperating in production will constitute an organic whole therein. We deplore and shall prevent at all costs the abuses of partial vested interests, as well as anarchy in the workforce.

12. The primary purpose of wealth is to improve the standard of living of all the people – and this will be the declared policy of our State. It is intolerable that great masses of people live in poverty while a few enjoy every luxury.

13. The State will recognize private property as a legitimate means of attaining individual, family, and social ends, and will protect it against being abused by high finance, speculators, and moneylenders.

14. We shall defend the move toward nationalization of banking and the takeover of the major public services by corporations.

15. All Spanish citizens have the right to work. The public institutions will provide adequate maintenance for those who are involuntarily out of work. While we are moving toward the new overall structure, we shall retain and increase all the advantages the workers derive from current social legislation.

16. Every Spaniard who is not an invalid is duty-bound to work. The National-Syndicalist State will not have the slightest regard for those who do not fulfill any function but who expect to live like guests at the expense of other people’s efforts.

Land

17. As a matter of urgency we must raise the standard of living in the rural areas, on which Spain will always depend for her food. For this reason, we commit ourselves to the strict implementation of an economic and social reform of agriculture.

18. As part of our economic reform, we shall strengthen agricultural production by means of the following measures:

By guaranteeing all farmers an adequate minimum price for their produce;

By seeing to it that much of what is nowadays absorbed by the cities in payment for their intellectual and commercial services is returned to the land, in order to endow rural areas sufficiently;

By organizing a real system of national agricultural credit that will lend farmers money at low rates of interest, thereby guaranteeing their possessions and harvests and freeing them from usury and patronage;

By spreading education pertaining to matters of agriculture and animal husbandry;

By rationalizing production according to the suitability of the land and the outlets available for its products;

By promoting a protectionist tariff policy covering agriculture and the raising of cattle;

By speeding up the construction of a hydraulic network;

By rationalizing landholdings in order to eliminate both vast estates that are not fully exploited and smallholdings that are uneconomic by reason of their low yield.

19. We shall achieve a social organization of agriculture by means of the following measures:

By redistributing once again all the arable land to promote family holdings and by giving farmers every encouragement to join the union;

By rescuing from their present poverty the masses of people who are exhausting themselves scratching on barren soil, and by transferring them to new holdings of arable land.

20. We shall launch a tireless campaign of reforestation and stockbreeding, imposing severe sanctions on whomever obstructs it, and even resorting temporarily to the enforced mobilization of all Spanish youth for the historic task of rebuilding our country’s wealth.

21. The State will have powers to confiscate without compensation any land the ownership of which has been acquired or enjoyed illicitly.

22. A priority of the National-Syndicalist State will be to return to villages their communal property.

National education and religion

23. It is a fundamental mission of the State to impose a rigorous discipline on education that will produce a strong, united, national spirit and fill the souls of future generations with joy and pride in their Fatherland. All men will receive preliminary training to prepare them for the honour of admission to Spain’s national forces.

24. Culture will be organized in such a way that no talent will be lost for lack of finance. All those who are deserving will have easy access even to higher education.

25. Our Movement integrates the Catholic spirit, which has been traditionally glorious and predominant in Spain, into the reconstruction of the nation. Church and State will come to an agreement on the areas of their respective powers, but any interference from the Church or any activity likely to undermine the dignity of the State or the integrity of the nation will not be tolerated.

National revolution

26. The Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las JONS demands a new order, as set forth in the foregoing principles. In the face of the resistance from the present order, it calls for a revolution to implant this new order. Its method of procedure will be direct, bold, and combative. Life signifies the art and science of warfare (milicia) and must be lived with a spirit that is purified by service and sacrifice.

Dishonouring Parents for Politically Incorrect Attitudes

Several weeks ago, RT put up an article with a sensationalist headline: ‘Michelle Obama urges high schoolers to monitor their families’ politically incorrect thoughts’. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the First Lady turned her audience’s attention to the return of segregation today: ‘See, many districts in this country have actually pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools, and many communities have become less diverse as folks have moved from cities to suburbs. And even in schools that seem integrated according to the numbers, when you look a little closer, you see students from different backgrounds sitting at separate lunch tables, or tracked into different classes, or separated into different clubs or activities.’ I shall pass over her objection to students’ choosing freely to separate themselves into different clubs or activities; amid some broadly sound aspirations, the First Lady made some more controversial suggestions:

There’s no court case against believing in stereotypes or thinking that certain kinds of hateful jokes or comments are funny. So the answers to many of our challenges today can’t necessarily be found in our laws. As you go forth, when you encounter folks who still hold the old prejudices because they’ve only been around folks like themselves, when you meet folks who think they know all the answers because they’ve never heard any other viewpoints, it’s up to you to help them see things differently.

Maybe that starts simply in your own family, when grandpa tells that off-colored joke at Thanksgiving, or you’ve got an aunt talks about ‘those people’. Well, you can politely inform them that they’re talking about your friends. Because this issue is so sensitive, is so complicated, so bound up with a painful history. And we need your generation to help us break through. We need all of you to ask the hard questions and have the honest conversations, because that is the only way we will heal the wounds of the past and move forward to a better future.

In response, I said on Facebook, ‘I get that we can disagree with things our families do, but the First Lady seems to veer close to recommending that we dishonour our parents for saying politically incorrect things.’

To some readers, I may seem to have overreached. Certainly the allegations of some, that the First Lady’s suggestions strongly resemble those of 1984, are excessive. There is, I do think, a potential slippery slope toward something like Maoist rejection of family authority, but such an implication requires more to be read into the First Lady’s words than responsible reading can furnish. Still, some of her words I do find objectionable.

Rightly has she has pointed out that laws alone cannot heal the wounds of the past, that we need to ask hard questions and have honest conversations. But then she has also remarked, ‘Well, you can politely inform them [a grandfather or an aunt] that they’re talking about your friends.’ Colour me triggered, but that is not how one speaks to one’s elders.

To me, the idea of asking one’s parents to reconsider their prejudices about a certain group just because one counts ‘those people’ as one’s friends is ludicrous. For such a thing to be thought in Chinese, let alone said to one’s social superiors, is almost inconceivable. We Chinese have the expression 猪朋狗友: pig and dog friends, or profligate companions. Is my son to rule me by his choice of friends, or am I to rule his choice of friends? If my child pulled on me what the First Lady has suggested, I would probably say, ‘And you keep such friends? Are they the ones teaching you to talk to me that way?’ That my child keeps bad company out of naïveté, a bad life choice, is likely; that my child’s callow life choices, opposite to mine, should compel me to rethink my life is a perverted thought. By the same logic, even though much racial prejudice is irrational and leads people to treat one another in ungodly ways, a child’s choices are no rational basis for a change in opinion.

I am not saying it is impossible to be wrong and learn something from one’s children; but to expect one’s parents to reconsider just because one has oneself made different choices seems arrogant in the extreme. And so, silly as it may seem, I do not think my assessment of the First Lady’s suggestion silly. When I see ‘politely inform’, I ask: To what end? The end is, quite explicitly, for the younger to influence the elder by the pressure of his own choices. So children have also been known through such emotional blackmail to change their parents’ minds by declaring themselves gay. So to speak in earnest, and not in ridicule of liberal White children, is impudent. If one is to resist racism in earnest, such rhetorical topoi, which lay claim to a kind of personal superiority (by being with the times, rather than by having the experience of age), are not the way to go with one’s elders; rather, one must rely on logical demonstration upon sound premises, without such ethical pretences as enlightenment by reason of youth.

The Cappa Magna and Ecclesiastical Dignities

Apparently a post at The Deacon’s Bench has gotten some people talking about the Roman Catholic garment called the cappa magna, and whether it should be worn by those to whom the Roman Catholic Church grants the privilege. Some think it emphasizes too much, for the taste of our age, the pomp and glory of the Roman church; others believe the dignity conveyed by the garment is ædifying precisely because it offends liberals’ idolatrous sensibilities. Ever the moderate, perhaps, I sympathize with both ideas.

’Tis a truism of the Church that the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth, begotten of the Father before all ages, came into the world clothed not in visible glory but in the humble womb of a humble maid, and once born was laid in a manger. The scene, whatever its further import, is a rustic one, far from the glittering court of King Herod. For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. The inference is clear enough that God has no need of majestic form to set forth his own majesty.

Yet the same God is also not shy of clothing his truth in splendour. When we look at the abundance of nature, we see that it exceeds what is strictly necessary for us to know God exists. However elegant its form, God is not a minimalist. Likewise, God has never instructed his people to shun gold and silver and to put away from themselves all signs of wealth. To be sure, modesty and sobriety are virtues that he enjoins for all men, but chaste æsthetics are more than what the sour liberals imagine them to be – indeed, those puritanical folk in their outrage cannot imagine chastity. Thus it is that decadence is found even in the most strongly professed purism, and pharisaical fervour even in the worst decadence. A call to keep ‘the Church’ poor may well be a thinly disguised bid to plunder the dignity of the weak for the lustre of the strong: not godliness, but capitalism. Judas Iscariot would be proud. So we should not trust an image for its apparent iconoclasm; for the iconoclasm may itself be an image in which fools glory. That churchly vesture may offend this false glory is a virtue, not a vice.

But our purpose in tearing down an idol is only to build up the pure worship of God. Have we aught to do with lengthening the trains of bishops simply to offend the pagans? We have not. Our object is not to puff up one man by cutting down another man, but in putting down the mighty pride of one man to lift up the Son of Man. And with the eyes of faith we see that the glory of a miracle is not its spectacle, a feast for the eyes, but its holiness, a feast for the soul. The majesty is not of lesser goods but of the greatest good of them all, not for the appetites but for charity. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

What we seek, then, is the dignity of what is common – common, that is, to all. Money privately held is nothing worthy of dignity. To ornament money with what money affords, it may be said, is a currency of no worth. To be worth his clothes, a man must be greater than his clothes; or else, as a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion. More precisely, so is outward beauty on a woman whose inward character is unworthy of praise. In contrast, what is intrinsically good is worthy of honour, and it behoves us to acknowledge its gravitas by clothing it with an honourable appearance. So the Christ child, humble in circumstances, received gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

So the natural order, and the offices of men subservient to this natural order, whether ordained directly by God or to devised by human wisdom to maintain better the ordinance of God, should be held in outward honour. To inward reverence we should add some outward. Though we are incapable of adorning the perfection of God except that as the mystical body of the incarnate Christ we adorn that sacred Head with the works of our bodies, yet what is good but not very goodness itself we can clothe with lesser dignities. For the weakness of the flesh, a magistrate is given lictors bearing fasces; a bishop is given deacons; a father is given a motherly helper. So too we use all kinds of even smaller things to clothe the finite good of these human orders.

Perhaps a bishop is a lord among men, whose virtue at its best is well portrayed by a cloak with a train and someone to carry that train. But I find it more likely that what we best honour is exemplary piety, in the white rochet, and learning, in the sober black chimere. Vague honours, and the easy heaping of privilege upon privilege, will do little but cloud the judgement. Let us find, in human society, the most ædifying honours for what is honourable, that we may all remember in God what is best and greatest.

Open Academic Gown with Collar

’Tis the season for graduations, when students wear their academic gowns for once – except at such places at Oxford, where they sit their exams in their academic gowns. My brother is about to graduate, so I dug up a picture of a Princeton student from 1773.

I especially like the collar, but it probably would never work in polyester. Come to think of it, that probably is a good reason to bring back the collar: to get rid of the polyester. That undergraduate, at 16, is dressed more smartly than the average 21-year-old graduating student today. Clearly he’s doing something right in the way of dignity. Am I right?

Apostate Judaism, Reprobate Postchristianity

The evil of Judaism today consists in its conscious and insistent rejection of the true Messiah, whom the Jews, by any natural reckoning of their divinely afforded advantages, not least of which were the covenant with Abraham and the infallible prophecies of multiple centuries, should been the first of all people to accept. No writer of the New Testament faults the Jews for having the greatest advantages, but rather the New Testament and the human lips of our Lord himself blame their hardened hearts, that even with the clearest of revelation they reject what all the Law and all the Prophets declare.

But so will it be for all hæretics who have the Scriptures but blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, that it will be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them. Observe, the degeneracy of a post-Christian culture is even worse, for it has enjoyed the inestimable blessing of not only the Old Testament, which itself is ample testimony of Christ, but also the New. Now that Christ has been fully revealed both to the Jews and to many of those called Gentiles, the fate of unbelieving Jewry and the fate of another apostate society is the same: fire and ashes, a holocaust more fearsome than men can even dream up.

This kind of inverted parody is not your Renaissance music by Ockeghem; it is the reality of the dies iræ. Not only our consciences burn within us, but our cultural fathers will denounce us. For Jesus Christ said against the Jews of his generation,

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Is the sin not even worse for a people that has turned away from the gospel’s fulness to the service of dead gods? The promise for such a degenerate nation is death.

To Esfahān

Let us to Esfahān, you and I;
For you, my love, have widened my whole world,
And in that city let us wondering buy
The richest cloths humanity’s unfurled.
There let us die, and there be opened up,
And there our bodies vault the heavens’ blue
With arching harmony in every cup
That we pour out and richly drink anew.
Oh, taste the spirits of this alchemy,
Where city opens city, dreams to stitch
Together in a fearful tapestry,
Exquisitely bathing us in rose and saffron rich.
They say there, Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast;*
So let’s together, halves made whole and honest.

* Persian: ‘Esfahān is half the world.’

Aside

Emily Post, in Etiquette (1922):

People do not greet each other in church, except at a wedding. At weddings people do speak to friends sitting near them, but in a low tone of voice. It would be shocking to enter a church and hear a babel of voices! Ordinarily in church if a friend happens to catch your eye, you smile, but never actually bow. If you go to a church not your own and a stranger offers you a seat in her pew, you should, on leaving, turn to her and say: ‘Thank you.’ But you do not greet anyone until you are out on the church steps, when you naturally speak to your friends. ‘Hello’ should not be said on this occasion because it is too ‘familiar’ for the solemnity of church surroundings.

One might still greet people, I think, in the narthex afore the worship space, unless there was no well-defined narthex. As a man of high-church sensibilities – and it seems Mrs Post shares my sentiments – I do rather dislike talking in church, though it seems only right to speak when spoken to, however quietly. In a low-church parish it can be harder to know what to do, when everyone talks in church. I suppose one can move quietly into the pew and be in prayer until the service starts.

The Humour’s Sip

Photograph by HORIZON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The dew drops from the heavens, delicate
Woven like water painting destiny
Across the sky; but I am desolate,
Still starved, thirsting for drunken harmony.

Oh, long have I been kept the taste of wine
From knowing, long delirious for want,
And starving, darkened, I cannot divine
Why I have seen but flickers, but a taunt.

Thou leavest what is thine for me; but thine own
Real presence thou still cloudest from my tongue,
A honeycomb whose sweetness to be known
Has mocked my craving to brought round young.

How art thou in me, yet I have thee not?
O one and only, art thou in my flesh,
My spirit in thine? If my heart forgot
His life, ’tis thou wilt open it afresh.

Inventor Rutili

In Easter Vigils, this very fitting hymn should be heard more when the fire is lit for the Paschal candle:

Baptistic Evangelicalism and High-Church Moves

Photograph by Matthew Kirkland (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Responding to reports in the media of ‘high-church’ moves away from Baptistic evangelicalism, Albert Mohler attributes such moves to ignorance of the biblical message in Baptist churches and calls upon Baptist churches to improve their biblical teaching. Some who have, so to speak, left the Baptist fold have objected to his words. I am one of those Christians, I suppose, who have made the move that so troubles Dr Mohler about the future of the Baptist churches. As any regular reader of this blog discovers soon enough, I am a moderately high-church evangelical Anglican. But I think I stand somewhere in between Dr Mohler and his detractors.

If Baptist theology is in error – and I believe it is – then of course I hope that its errors will perish from the earth, and only its good points remain. If Anglican theology is in error – though I believe it fundamentally is not – then I hope the good Lord will extirpate its errors from his holy Church. Whatever one thinks of diversity of practice, doctrinal contradiction within the Church, if truth matters, is not good. Like many Protestants, I value toleration; but this is not to displace the præmium I place on truth. And I think the Anglican way is to seek unity in doctrine: the Church of England’s Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion were written ‘for the avoidance of diversities of opinions and for the establishing of consent concerning true religion’. For it is not sense – it is nonsense – to desire diversity for its own sake. Such a desire, in the matter of the service of God, is a desire for incohærence and finally dissolution. So I shall feign no affection for what I regard as error, and instead I pray, and I hope Baptists pray, that God, knowing what he himself has taught, may unite the Church in the truth and reform whatever is in error.

If I am a Christian before I am an Anglican, then I also hope that Dr Mohler and other Baptists are Christians before they are Baptists, and that they would accept and even welcome the decline of Baptist theology, and the diminution of the Baptist identity, if the Baptists should be in error. But if the Baptists are right, it is the duty of other Christians to join themselves to the truth even if that means the extinction of their confessional identity. I will not deal, therefore, with any wringing of hands over declining numbers in this or that sect, whether Anglican, Baptist, or Romanist, and instead I shall deal only with, inasmuch as I understand it, the truth.

Even if we supposed that Baptist readings of Scripture were true, it could not be denied that actual Baptist churches tended to lack the fullness of the faith. This lack is what Dr Mohler calls a want of grounding in the Christian faith. Even if I allow that Baptist doctrine is the closest to that of the Bible, I can safely say that Baptists are weak in catechesis, patristics, and æsthetics. These weaknesses are extrinsic to Baptist doctrine, and it is certainly possible that the loss of cradle Baptists (if such a term be allowed) to non-Baptist denominations is due to them. It is nothing but commendable for Southern Baptists, led by Dr Mohler, to supply what is now lacking in Baptist practice. It would be a boon to the whole Church, not just to the Baptists, for Baptist churches to better teach the fundamental doctrines of the catholic faith, to use the testimony of the early church fathers to teach the doctrine of the Scriptures, and to use a more dignified mode of worship that, rather than making people feel upbeat, impressed upon Christians a deeper sense of the transcendent majesty of God.

A lack of these things is indeed a bad reason to have people leave their Baptist churches, and weaknesses extrinsic to Baptist identity are indeed bad reasons to turn to new theology, and so Baptist churches should make every effort to supply the defect. For instance, a revival of the Charleston tradition of worship might be in order. If reforms in Baptist churches lead Christians to reject the consumerist’s approach to worship and to church life in general, such change is cause for any Christian to rejoice. If Baptists are not driven into Anglican or Romanist churches by the triviality of many Baptist churches today, nor attracted to cæremonially more elaborate churches by sensuous trivialities, there is nothing for a Christian to object to, unless his loyalty is rather to a tribe than to the true body of Christ. The adoption of biblical principles that are not opposed to Baptist theology is an unequivocal good. A call to such growth, such as it is, requires no rejoinder.

As an Anglican, however, I believe that Baptist theology also suffers from some intrinsic weaknesses. I find it ‘obtuse’, as Alex Wilgus puts it, to hold that every turn to Anglicanism, a tradition intrinsically better grounded in the substance of biblical teaching and the history of the Church, is due almost wholly to a lack of grounding in the Christian faith. In the Christian and Missionary Alliance church in which I was brought up in the faith, even if there was some silliness, catechesis was not fluff. In our youth group, we went over a brief survey of church history which included the East-West schism, Luther, and the founding of the Christian and Missionary Alliance by A. B. Simpson. Another week, we even learned a little about Epicureanism and Stoicism. Clearly, it was not a youth group designed to entertain intellectual slouches. What drew me from general evangelicalism to the Reformed tradition and later to the Anglican tradition in particular was that in these traditions I saw the biblical principles I already knew articulated more robustly, and more cohærently, than general evangelicalism could account for. I think, given how gradually I moved in my doctrinal beliefs, that ignorance cannot take the credit for my move to Anglicanism; nor did I ever quite lose my faith and have to find it again in some new thing. As Derek Rishmawy reports for himself, my evangelical story isn’t so bad. There was a time when I thought otherwise, but ultimately I have better reasons for being Anglican than teenage angst and the reading of Michael Spencer’s Internet Monk blog. Being Reformed and Anglican, I have only deepened in my evangelical commitments.

Dr Mohler is on the side of the angels if he wants Baptist churches to deepen their commitment to biblical teaching. But to do that, I think, those churches ought to consider becoming Anglican.